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SECTION 4 FOOTBALL: ELMIRA ROLLS TO SEASON-OPENING WIN OVER BINGHAMTON (24 PHOTOS) (2021-09-12)

By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
ELMIRA — Almost before you could blink, the Elmira Express were up 16 points against Binghamton.

A pair of onside kick recoveries gave the Express the quick lead and they never looked back in a 53-8 victory on Saturday to open the season.

“We are happy with the win,” Elmira coach Jimmy McCauley said. “I don’t know if people on the outside know how hard it is, our kids do. Practice is tough. Going to school, trying to do a great job in school, all those different things.

“Winning is tough, so we tell our kids to be happy. We’re never satisfied, this is just part of the process. Our ultimate goal is to win a sectional championship and that all starts with week one.”

It was a good start for the Express who wasted little time taking control of the game.

The opening kickoff by Elmira was quickly recovered by Jelani Muhammad and Elmira went to work.

Taking over at the 31-yard-line, the Express had four runs, the final one a six-yard scamper by Muhammad. Taylon Johnson ran in the two-point try and Elmira led 8-0 at 10:05.

Elmira kicked again and the Binghamton return man bobbled the ball and it was quickly picked up by Elmira’s Wesley Taft.

Again the Express went to work and after back-to-back runs, sophomore quarterback Evan Garvin took to the air and hit Mikey Middaugh on a 20-yard pass. After the two-point run by Muhammad the Express led 16-0 at 8:45.

For McCauley the special teams is just part of the game that they work on knowing that there are big plays to be had in that aspect of the game.

“We try and coach all three phases up,” McCauley said. “We try and coach all four quarters, late in the game we are trying to get guys in. And, it’s not to get guys in to play, it’s to get guys in to coach them up. To get guys in to get them on film to evaluate them. Special teams is a third of the, we don’t have as man plays, but you can have huge plays on special teams and we put a huge emphasis on that.”

Binghamton moved the ball on their first possession, running off a nine-play drive, where they picked up a pair of first downs. However, the Express defense stepped up and shut down the threat.

“I thought our front three did a pretty good job” McCauley said of the defense. “First quarter, first drive I thought they were anxious, but they settled down and it’s believing in what we do. Believing in our game plan.”

Elmira took over at their own 36 and Muhammad wasted no time adding to the Express lead, rushing 64 yards for the score on the first play of the drive. Tyler Marks ran in the two-point run and at 3:36 of the first quarter it was 24-0 Elmira.

“It feels great,” Muhammad said of the win. I’m not going to lie. My team blocked, everything was great overall. Blocks, running backs running, everything.”

As soon as he got the ball on the 64-yard run he knew there was a big opening.

“As soon as I got the ball I was like no one is there,” Muhammad said. “As soon was I got the ball I saw the whole.”

After neither team could do anything on their next drive, the Express showed they weren’t just all big plays.

Elmira grinder out a 16-play, 91-yard drive that lasted until there was 24.5 seconds in the half when Johnson scored from five-yards out. Gavin hit Middaugh on the two-point try and it was 32-0 at the half.

The drive was a total team effort as three different players had 10-plus yard runs on the drive and five different players carried the ball on the drive.

The drive just showed the balance the team had all day long.

Elmira ran for 405 yards in the game, without a single player going over 100 in the game, but four players hitting for 50-plus yards.

Muhammad led the Express with 97 yards and two scores and Brady Keefe had 75 yards and a score on just eight carries. Johnson ran for 53 yards and a touchdown and Tyler Marks had 53 yards. Two other players went over 30 yards rushing as Damion Griffin ran for 34 yards and Johnnie Garcia picked up 33 yards on the ground.

In the second half Binghamton got on the board as Xymier Thomas threw a pass that bounced off the defenders finger tips and landed in the hands of Sam Gouldin for an 89-yard pass play. However, the Elmira defense never gave up and stopped the play short of the end zone. While Latrail Jones would score two plays later and Joe Oakley ran in the two-point try, McCauley saw something from his defense not giving up on the play.

“We are going to pick apart the film, I think we did some good things, I think we could have put the ball in a few more times, but one thing I was pleased with was our effort and energy. It was not perfect by any means, but I expect our effort and energy to be as high as possible.

“On the long pass play we had people tracking him down. I think that’s something that’s a feeling inside the kid has to have. WE try and coach it up, but I think we have a lot of kids with a burning desire to try as hard as they can.”

Elmira added to their lead with 9:43 left in the game on a Keefe 13-yard run and Garvin hit Johnson on the two-point try to make it 40-8.

On their next possession Griffin ran in from five yards out and the two-point try failed with 1:55 left.

Elmira’s final score came with 1:23 remaining when Terrell Swan had a 32-yard pick six to cap the defensive effort.

For Elmira’s players it was special to be back on their home field and have a loud crowd behind them.

“It feels great, I can’t even explain the feeling, something different,” Muhammad said. “Definitely hyped us up. We were definitely focused the whole game.”

Now it’s on to Horseheads next week on the road for the Express.

“We are going to study our butts off,” McCauley said. “Spend a lot of time on film, spend a lot of time putting a great game plan down. They’ve got their new stadium. For us, we will play there, we will play here, we will play on the pavement.”
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IN TOP PHOTO: Elmira's Jelani Muhammad. . . PHOTOS BY BRIAN FEES


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