Facing pressure

Arundel's Elko on biggest stage

Class 4A state football final

December 06, 2007|By Stefen Lovelace | Stefen Lovelace,SUN REPORTER

Arundel's Nick Elko has thrown more touchdown passes this season than any public school quarterback in state history.

The senior isn't concerned with records at this point, however. He said that playing in a state championship game has been his goal since sixth grade, and he will get his chance tomorrow night.

"[The state championship] is probably way more important for me," said Elko, who will lead his team against Quince Orchard of Montgomery County in the Class 4A state final at M&T Bank Stadium at 7. "That's probably the ultimate goal, the Super Bowl of high school. It would be one of the best things for me to achieve."

Elko, who has thrown for 2,792 yards and 40 touchdowns with just seven interceptions in running the no-huddle spread offense of the Wildcats (13-0). Twenty-one of his touchdown passes have been caught by wide receiver Brandon Johnson-Farrell, who set a state single-season record for touchdown receptions.

Despite the gaudy numbers, Elko said he feels pressure about performing in the championship game.

"There's definitely going to be nerves when we first go out there," said Elko, 6 feet 3 and 205 pounds. "It'll be nerve-wracking. After a while, we'll get used to it, and it'll be just another football game."

With Elko's preparation and poise, Arundel coach Chuck Markiewicz expects his quarterback to rise to the occasion.

"Nick calls a lot of the game, probably about 25 to 30 percent," Markiewicz said. "He's a student of the game; he works hard at it and watches a lot of film."

In Quince Orchard, Arundel is facing a dominant team that also is 13-0. The Cougars routed Class 3A state finalist Damascus (12-1), 35-0, in Week 3 and have four Division I prospects on the defensive line.

Elko might be feeling pressure now, but it is nothing like the pressure the Cougars will be looking to bring tomorrow.

"We're pretty much going to do the same thing, which is get the ball out quicker and get [blockers] in their face," Elko said. "Hopefully, they won't be able to keep up with our high-pace offense, and hopefully, it will get them tired so their pass rush doesn't affect us."

Surprisingly, setting a state touchdown record and leading his team to its first state championship game since 1979 hasn't led to a host of college recruiters knocking on Elko's door.

He says he hopes that a standout performance and a Wildcats victory in the state final will open the eyes of college scouts.

"That's the plan," Elko said. "Hopefully, [a scholarship] is what I'm going for, and that's what I'm kind of waiting for. This is probably going to be one of my most memorable moments. I hope to do good in it to remember it well."

stefen.lovelace@baltsun.com

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