One down, one to go.
With just 26 playoff points heading into Week 8, the Elk Grove football team knew it would probably need to win out to qualify for the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season.
And Friday night, Elk Grove (5-3, 3-1) looked like a team hungry for a playoff berth. The Grens raced out to a 27-0 halftime lead and never looked back in a 27-7 Mid-Suburban East league contest over host Wheeling (2-8, 1-3).
"I hope there are several more to go," Elk Grove coach Larry Calhoun said after the win moved the Grens one step closer to an automatic postseason appearance. "I was real proud of the kids' effort tonight in the first half, but we need to do a better job of maintaining our intensity in the second half."
Adam O'Malley made sure the Grens would be in control of their own destiny next Friday night as the senior rushed for 98 yards and passed for another 135 in the win. He registered the play of the game with a 56-yard touchdown scamper with 2:03 left in the first half.
On the play, O'Malley carved up the Wildcats defense and carried a Wheeling defender into the end zone the final 4 yards.
"That was an unbelievable run," senior WR/DB Matthew Wary said of his teammate's run. "The extra effort he made on the run just shows who he is and who we are as a team. He doesn't go down easy and neither do we."
After allowing 76 points in the last two weeks, Calhoun was hoping his defense would get back to the way he knew it was capable of playing.
"Our defense has played great all season overall," the Grens coach said. "We have struggled a couple of games, but right here at the end, whatever it was that troubled us in those game we seemed to have gotten it fixed."
O'Malley put the Grens on the board on their first drive when he found John Pass for a 17-yard strike.
Then the defense took over. Wary recorded a sack on third down then blocked the punt on fourth down as the visitors took over possession on the Wheeling 21.
Wary came up with a tackle for loss on the Wildcats' next offensive possession before Mike Bishoff ended the drive with another sack.
"I think we were very well prepared all week with watching film," Wary said. "We did a good job of recognizing their schemes and came out with a lot of intensity."
The blocked punt also set the stage for a newcomber to the Grenadiers varsity. Sophomore Chuck Fleming scored a 21-yard touchdown on just his second carry of the night. The newly promoted sophomore finished the game with 56 yards on 10 carries.
"He's been running the ball for us well at the sophomore level," Calhoun said of Fleming. "He's proven himself at the sophomore level, a tremendous athlete and we just felt like it was his time."
On the scoring run, Fleming hurdled a defender after receiving the pitch from O'Malley and was untouched until he was pushed from behind inside the 5.
Travon Royal accounted for the other score for the Grens with a 23-yard score. He finished with 72 yards on 11 carries.
For the game, the Grens had 231 yards on the ground.
"We feel like if we get in the playoffs we are going to be able to run the ball as well," Calhoun. "But we are still going to sling the rock around as well."
Isaac Branch led the Wildcats with 105 yards on the ground.
Elk Grove finishes up its regular season at Prospect next week.
"Prospect is going to ready, it's not going to be an easy one for us," Calhoun said. "They are well coached and are a good football team."