Defense leads Elizabeth Forward to victory over Deer Lakes

Friday, August 31, 2018 | 11:48 PM

Powered by an opportunistic defensive performance, the Elizabeth Forward football team got out ahead early against Deer Lakes and stayed there, knocking off the Lancers, 33-14, to earn a Class 3A Big East Conference victory Friday.

The Elizabeth Forward (1-0, 1-0) defense did a little bit of everything in its first game of the season. The unit forced two interceptions and two fumble recoveries to go along with a safety as it overwhelmed the Lancers’ (0-1, 0-1) pesky offensive efforts.

As if the four turnovers and the safety weren’t enough, the Warriors blocked a punt to provide coach Mike Collodi a cherry on top of the home victory.

“We’re always trying to win the turnover battle and create turnovers,” Collodi said. “We try to get the edge in our special teams game, as well. We really put an emphasis on our special teams this week and heading into this game, and tonight, it paid off.”

The Elizabeth Forward offense was led by quarterback Zach Benedek, who turned in a workmanlike performance in the win.

Despite seeing his pass-catchers drop five of his attempts, the senior completed 7 of 18 passes for 92 yards, one touchdown to Nathan Alberts and one interception. Benedek ran for 91 yards and two touchdowns on 18 rushing attempts.

Deer Lakes quarterback Aris Hasley threw for 103 yards on 10 of 20 passing. The junior flashed a strong rapport with Jared Colton, who hauled in four passes for 67 yards on the night.

Hasley also scored both Lancers’ touchdowns, on runs of 5 and 12 yards. He finished with 61 yards on eight rushing attempts.

“Deer Lakes is a heck of a team. They’re well coached, and they got some good players. We just took what they were giving us,” Collodi said. “We never really run Zach in scrimmages or anything. We don’t show that because he’s a heck of a player, but we know he’s got the capability to run. Tonight, we unleashed him and let him do his thing.”

Benedek also forced a fumble and recovered a fumble on defense. Alberts, a cornerback, recorded an interception.

Sophomore running back Evan Lewis added 10 rushes for 46 yards and a touchdown in the winning effort.

It was the mistakes that doomed Deer Lakes, according to coach Tim Burk. And while the first-year field general might not be satisfied with the result, he did see plenty of positives.

“Turnovers were our downfall. Also some selfish penalties on our part. That’s the be-all, end-all for any coach: penalties and turnovers. It’s tough to win football games when you do those things,” Burk said. “But we’ll learn from it, we’ll get better. We did get better as the game went on. Our guys never quit, and that’s all I ask. They continued to battle, continued to fight and they showed me that. Things will fall into place if you continue to battle and continue to fight.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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