By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
Not everything worked out as planned for the Elon football team this season, but the season finale sure was a success.
The Phoenix put together a sterling first half on the way to a 51-14 romp past visiting Hampton on Saturday afternoon at Rhodes Stadium.
Elon (6-5 overall, 6-2 Coastal Athletic Association) finished a game out of first place in the CAA behind tri-champions Albany, Richmond and Villanova. This marks the third consecutive winning season for the Phoenix, something that hadn’t been achieved since four in a row from 2007-10.
“It’s definitely up and down,” redshirt sophomore defensive back Caleb Curtain said. “It’s a great conference, so you’ve got to bring your stuff every week.”
Elon brought it in huge doses from the start Saturday, when it played its first home game since October 21.
Matthew Downing threw for four touchdowns and 261 yards. His last scoring pass covered 53 yards to Johncarlos Miller III in the final minute of the first half.
It turned out to be the type of performance coveted by Elon, which had aspirations of reaching the postseason for the second season in a row.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a step back,” Curtain said. “It’s tough, two losses in the conference. It would be disappointing because we did make playoffs last year.”
A loss at Richmond in the second-to-last week of the season knocked the Phoenix out of CAA title contention. With an 0-3 non-league record, that hurt Elon’s chances of landing in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
“It’s kind of bummer knowing the percentage is that low,” senior safety Bo Sanders said earlier in the week. “We did it to ourselves. We didn’t come in and beat Richmond. Nothing else we can do except go out and beat Hampton.”
That was certainly accomplished.
Five touchdowns in the first 20 minutes, capped by Sanders’ 34-yard interception return and redshirt freshman linebacker Marco Patierno’s 23-yard return in a six-second span. Those marked the first collegiate touchdowns for both players.
Highlights for the Phoenix came in a rapid manner.
“There’s an emotional part to it, you realize it’s coming to an end,” Sanders said. “You want to soak it all up even more.”
Before the defensive touchdowns, Elon came out firing. Chandler Brayboy returned the opening kickoff 56 yards and Downing connected with Jamarien Dalton on a 33-yard touchdown pass on the first snap.
Brayboy went 60 yards for a touchdown on Elon’s next possession.
Then up 14-7, Elon needed five plays to go 80 yards, finishing with Christian Da-Silva’s 33-yard touchdown reception from Downing. That gave the senior his first career touchdown.
Elon’s Wayne Dixie III scored on a 27-yard run for the only touchdown in the fourth quarter. He ended up with a game-high 89 rushing yards on seven carries.
Hampton (5-6, 3-5) was held to 192 yards of total offense.