Elysian Fields’ Unlikely Run Through the Playoffs Fueled By Key Personnel Changes
It's safe to say, very few saw this coming. The Elysian Fields Yellow Jackets are just one win from playing for a state championship.
The Jackets' path to the Class 2A Division II state semifinals has been paved with doubters. After collecting hard-fought wins over Winona and Deweyville in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Elysian Fields ran into a pair of teams who earned decisive victories over the Jackets during the regular season.
Elysian Fields avenged a 30-point loss to Arp with a surprising 30-20 victory two weeks ago in the regional semifinals. And just last week, the Jackets took it a step further by defeating previously unbeaten Hughes Springs, 21-14, avenging a 41-point regular-season loss.
“I think we looked at everything after the Hughes Springs loss," said Elysian Fields coach Eric King. "We took a step back and kinda looked at what was working and what wasn’t. We made some moves by putting kids in different positions. I think we tried to get some of our most athletic guys in there that hadn’t been playing a whole lot.”
Whatever wasn't working before is operating at peak performance right now.
Elysian Fields fell behind Hughes Springs 14-0 late in the first half last Saturday. Nothing was working offensively for the Jackets
Well, until quarterback Trevor Spear's 62-yard touchdown pass to Nate Hall brought Elysian Fields to within a score with 31 seconds to go until halftime. The pass was intended for T.J. Clark, but the ball went through his hands and found its way to Hall, who was about 5 yards behind the play.
“I wasn’t called, I know that," King said of the momentum-swinging play. "I told the OC over the headset and another assistant on the sidelines that i just wanted not be safe and get it into halftime. Both assured me, it was safe, which it was.
"It was one of those things where we got all the breaks here and there with the ball going our way. That play will never happen again. It was just our night.”
Elysian Fields scored again in the third quarter, but still trailed 14-13 after a missed extra point. Late in the fourth quarter, the Jackets benefitted from another big play in the passing game.
Spear hit Hall once again, who dragged a defender into the end zone for a 49-yard touchdown. The ensuing two-point try was successful, and Elysian Fields had its first lead of the night with 2:36 remaining.
Hall finished the night with five catches for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’ve got a really good receiving corps and Nate’s one of our best all-around receivers," King said. "He has great speed and good hands. He’s kinda been Trevor’s go-to guy."
Elysian Fields had conquered another nemesis.
"I think the biggest feeling from our players was that they’d finally done it," King said. "Hughes Springs has kinda been a thorn in our side the last three years."
Needless to say, the Elysian Fields players left Lobo Stadium in Longview that night feeling pretty confident.
“I hope it’s not too high," King said of his team's confidence level. "They kids are very excited, but it’s something we have to guard against as well. This week we’re playing a team we don’t really know much about. We just know they’re awfully good and if we’re overconfident, we’ll be done playing after this week.”
King has a message for his players.
“I think that’s the biggest part of my job," he said. "I’m going to pull the group together to talk about what this is. There are only four teams left in our division, which is unreal. It’s be a shame to go in overconfident and lay an egg.”
Elysian Fields (11-3) plays East Bernard (13-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday from Baylor's Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco. The semifinal winner will face either Sonora or Corsicana Mildred in the state final scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday (Dec. 20) from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.