Photo by Jeff Vorva
Antonio Elizondo screams at his teammates during the final drive of Friday night’s playoff win over Rich Central. Elizondo’s fumble recovery with 3:13 left in the game helped preserve a 41-34 victory – the Vikings first playoff victory since 1993.
The last time St. Laurence won a playoff football game, none of the members of the 2015 squad were even born.
Their coach, Harold Blackmon was 15-years-old. He a student at Leo with no idea he would become an NFL player.
The year was 1993 and the 22-year postseason drought ended Friday night but it wasn’t easy. The Vikings and Rich Central ping-ponged back-and-forth, combining for 75 points before both defenses buckled down for a scoreless fourth quarter and the Vikings won the home contest, 41-34.
“With the history – you don’t expect to breeze by that first game because it’s been such a long time coming,” Blackmon said. “I think it’s great. It was great to see the alums out here. It was a great atmosphere. We wanted to make those guys – the ones who came before us – proud. It’s not just us. It’s a long history of guys who came up a little bit short.
“It’s our turn to carry the torch and we’re trying to make them proud.’’
The Vikings (8-2) are hoping that the gap between this playoff win and the next one will be just seven days as they visit King (8-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Gately Stadium.
Despite the huge scoring output by both teams, the game came down to a huge defensive play. The Olympians were on the Vikings’ 8-yard line and Antonio Elizondo chased down a loose ball after a high snap and smothered it on the 21 with 3:13 left in the game and the Vikings were able to run out the clock.
“I just happened to be fortunate enough to be around the ball,” Elizondo said. “We’re aggressive on defense and any one of us could have gotten that ball. I just so happened to be there to pick it up. We played great defense when it mattered the most. The offense consistently helped pick us up. We played for each other and that’s the story of the game.’’
It was the second fumble recovery of the year for him.
“I had one against Leo and it was near the sideline,” he said about the recovery in a 41-6 win Oct. 16. “That one was a little less significant I guess you could say.’’
Quarterback Alex Martinez was 11-of-13 for 257 yards and three touchdowns while added 87 yards on 15 carries. Fayezon Smart ran 24 times for 154 yards and Kevin Williams scored on a 19-yard run with 3:26 left in the third, which provided what turned out to be the winning touchdown. Robert Chayka had three receptions for 115 yards. Jimmy Burnette racked up his seventh interception of the season.
There was a collective sigh among the St. Laurence faithful after that one.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Blackmon said. “I think our guys grew up.’’
Martinez said he was happy with the win even though the execution was sometimes off.
“Our offense and defense lean on each other,” Martinez said. “Our offense actually had kind of a bad day. We had a couple of turnovers. We got stopped on the one-inch line and our defense was able to force five turnovers so that was really big.’’
On paper, St. Laurence figured to win big in the first round. On paper, the Vikings figure to win big against King. But that is falling on deaf ears.
“I don’t think we listen to what other people say about the other team,” Elizondo said. “It’s more about what we feel about ourselves. If we’re confident in ourselves and play for each other, we have a chance of winning.''