Half of Elijah Taniah’s Washington brothers in the backfield erupt in win over O’Gorman
Before Washington running back Elijah Taniah put the game out of O’Gorman’s reach in a 24-0 Warriors victory on Saturday, center Aiden Brink spotted his teammate on the sidelines, sideways, sulking. . Brink rushed towards him.
“Get your head in the game,” Brink shouted, stepping within inches of Elijah’s face mask. “Go on!”
A drive earlier, Elijah passed the ball into the middle and missed it. O’Gorman recovered, then drove. Elijah was disappointed, but Brink didn’t want to.
He gave Elijah a list of mistakes – a bad pitch from quarterback Max Thomson, a bad snap from Brink. The errors occurred a few disks earlier. Setbacks for Washington. But they’re coming, Brink said. He slapped Elijah’s helmet twice and Elijah nodded. He walked to the sideline, back in the field he had once separated from.
“If every day had to be perfect, God would never have created tomorrow,” Elijah said after the game.
After his mistake all Elijah did for the rest of the game was bounce back. He scored two touchdowns in the last 8:30 a.m. of the fourth quarter, turning a close game on his fumble into a decisive victory over O’Gorman (1-2) which further pushes Washington (2-1) to contender status in the class 11AAA.
The Washignton-O’Gorman battle was the first of two Presidents Bowl games at Howard Wood Field.
Just a sophomore, Elijah is half of the dynamic background of the Warriors Brothers. He finished the game with 126 yards and two touchdowns on 16 attempts. For the remainder of the year, the Taniah brothers’ success in the racing game will take Washington as far as it can go. As long as the defense continues to dominate, Washington’s offense doesn’t need to go fast unless the running backs do.
“They’re so similar and they’re so explosive,” Washington head coach Ryan Evans said of Blessing and Elijah. “And they feed off of each other.”
Washington came on Saturday as he has entered every game this season – wanting to establish the run. The first half was slow and orderly, but that has always been the Warriors’ plan.
Brink said the game plan was to “get away (O’Gorman)”.
Blessing, a senior, and Elijah combined 19 touches in the first half. And while there were some mini-breakaways, the footage came mostly in small pushes. Thomson hadn’t done much in QB yet, and the Warriors’ first two practices eventually stalled.
For a while, Washington’s most explosive play was an under 10 yard throw from Thomson to Josh Piper in the middle. Evans said short passes and quick runs sometimes go hand in hand when the Warriors are looking to establish a short distance to pieces.
But then Thomson completed another pass. And Blessing has a big race. Suddenly, the little chained wins led to something big. And on a run down the field powered by those gains, Thomson found senior wide receiver Thomas Peterson in the corner of the end zone to give the Warriors a 7-0 lead.
“He doesn’t have to be dominant,” Evans said of the offense. “But we had managed the ball effectively (enough) to get things going for us.”
The tone ultimately changed for the Warriors. The defense hit harder. The offense went further. On an O’Gorman drive, Washington’s Matthew Agyeman hit quarterback Bennett Dannenbring hard on an out run. Then, Mandalla Mohamed blew up a screen to Manny Struck. Dannenbring’s next pass fell incomplete and Agyeman swung his arms to the side, mimicking the referee’s call.
“Now that we are driving,” said Brink. “It’s a question of the team and not of ourselves.”
After Elijah’s breakaway, Washington blocked O’Gorman’s run inside the Washington 20-yard line. The Knights lined up to hit a basket, but Agyeman pulled off a good jump on the snap and blocked the kick. Washington defensive end Kendis Ledbetter recovered the ball and ran almost all the way down the pitch. So Elijah’s mistake, the one Brink must have told him about, was pointless.
Elijah returned to the field feeling different. Brink’s speech had “excited” him. And Washington’s defense had allowed the Warriors to retain at least temporary control.
Then they took permanent control.
Elijah took a transfer in the middle and saw an alley. He burst in through the opening and ran virtually intact to the end zone, made the sign of the cross and pointed skyward. It was 17-0 Warriors.
As Elijah began his trot off the field, a player staying outside for the extra kick called out to him. Brink called out to Elijah with his hands, and Elijah rushed towards him. When they met, Elijah jumped up and Brink grabbed him by the sides, holding him in the air. Elijah raised his arms above his head and floated.
Follow Sioux Falls Argus Leader reporter Michael McCleary on Twitter @mikejmccleary.