ENTERPRISE — The Enterprise football team has found a rhythm on offense, and suddenly is churning out points at a dizzying rate.
Gideon Gray rushed for 134 yards and three touchdowns and added a touchdown reception on the Outlaws’ fifth play of the game as Enterprise crossed the 50-point threshold again, routing Elgin at home Friday, Oct. 8, 55-26, on a night that not only was the homecoming game but a contest that was the final regular-season home game for Gray and Jackson Decker, the two seniors.
“The biggest thing for us is just going into practice, executing and doing everything we can do to win games,” Decker said. “We’ve had a strong defense all season, and we knew we had to work on the offensive side of the ball. So that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Both seniors stepped up to the plate early and often Friday as Enterprise again downed an opponent that, on paper, could have been seen as the favorite. Decker was 6-for-7 passing for 158 yards and four touchdowns — three on wide-open running back screens. He added a fifth rushing score of 18 yards.
The offense, after averaging 19.5 points per game in the first four contests and breaking 20 just once, has put up 106 points in winning consecutive games.
“We’re getting better each game. I think our offense is going to be hard to stop in upcoming games, too,” Gray said. “The other teams are going to have to look out for that.”
Head coach Rusty Eschler said the screen game has been an element available to the Outlaws’ all season, but they ran it to perfection Friday night. Eschler said Elgin was often overcommitting to one side in its run defense, and on three of those occasions, Enterprise executed a deft throwback screen to the other side, with a bevy of linemen leading the way for an open running back.
“If you watched them, anytime we ran a lead, the whole defense ran to that spot,” Eschler said. “And then we just shuffle off the back off the side, send the linemen downfield and there was nobody there. They were all trying to stop the lead.”
It was that setup that resulted in Enterprise’s first touchdown when Gray scored from 29 yards out on fourth-and-11 for a 6-0 lead just 3:14 into the game.
The screen resulted in two more second-half scores, both to Chase Duncan. The first, midway through the third quarter, saw Duncan — who finished with 71 yards receiving and 87 rushing — catch the pass with no defenders within about 10 yards of him and just blockers ahead as he walked in for a 37-yard score and a 48-14 lead. The two connected again early in the fourth, this time for 34 yards and a 55-20 lead, which put a running clock in effect with 8:48 to play. (OSAA has new mercy-rule procedures, with the new threshold 35 points as opposed to the 45 points it had been for decades.) Decker also hooked up with Caden Fent on a tight-end flare for a 32-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
In between the passing-game prowess was Enterprise’s running game, which racked up 246 more yards. Gray scored on runs of nine and three yards in the second quarter and punched it in from five yards in the third, with the latter of the three scores pushing the Outlaws to a 41-14 lead just 2:08 into the third quarter. In all, Enterprise amassed 404 yards, giving the team more than 1,000 in the last two weeks after totaling 597 against Ione/Arlington.
Eschler and Gray both credited the offensive line for the offensive effort.
“Up front, the linemen did an excellent job,” Eschler said. “You get Nevin Goldsmith, Cody Fent and Tanner Kesecker, Tegan (Evans) at tight end, and over at the other side with Caden Fent. Those guys blocked, did their job — whoever the lead back was, everyone picked everyone up.”
Enterprise’s defense also was stout, particularly in the first half. Elgin, which boasted a strong running game entering the contest, was shut down on the ground much of the night Friday. The Huskies were held to 187 yards rushing, with 119 of that coming after halftime.
In fact, at one point early in the second quarter — following Fent’s TD reception for a 27-8 lead — Enterprise had outgained Elgin 231 yards to minus-1.
The Huskies — whose first touchdown came early in the second on a 55-yard kickoff return by Bruce Morehead — didn’t put together a sustained drive until midway through the second quarter, when a 15-play, 76-yard drive that ate up close to seven minutes ended with a two-yard Morehead score to trim the margin to 27-14. But Gray’s second rushing touchdown just before the half gave Enterprise a 34-14 lead at the break.
Morehead finished with three touchdowns for Elgin, but had just 11 yards rushing. Ty McLaughlin had 112 yards and a touchdown on the ground, with 97 of those coming in the second half, and was 1-for-4 for five yards. Joe Lathrop added 64 yards rushing.
Enterprise (3-3 overall) finishes the regular season on the road with two games, the first one Friday, Oct. 15, at Sherman/Condon.