ELKINS, W.Va. — Two close losses in October by a combined five points ultimately kept Elkins on the outside looking in of the 2017 high school football playoff picture.

Elkins finished last season with a 5-5 record, including a critical 28-24 loss to Robert C. Byrd and 45-44 setback to Lincoln late in the year.

“Those five points were the difference in us making the playoffs and having to watch the first round,” said head coach Evan Hott. “Hopefully, with our guys training the way they did in the offseason, those close games will end up in our favor this year.”

Hott is heading into his second season at the helm after taking over last year for his father, Greg, who led the Tigers for 20 seasons.

“The biggest thing I took out of my first year is to rely on my other coaches and delegate responsibility more,” he said. “I had been around the program the entire life with my dad coaching. But at the same time, when you step into that role, sometimes it’s hard to let guys do their jobs and take part in the little things.”

And with a majority of skill players returning, Elkins hopes to be back in the playoff mix this coming season behind senior leaders Thomas Talkington and Daniel Romans.

Garrett Cullen, WVMetroNews.com

Thomas Talkington is one of the senior leaders for Elkins returning in 2018 after rushing for over 1,200 yards a year ago.

“Both of those guys ran for over 1,000 yards last season and they’ll be coming in for us, looking to have another big year,” Hott said. “Our skill guys will be our strength, obviously, and our team speed. We return every single skill position, especially in the back half of our defense.

“Having those five returning defensive backs coming back will be a big plus for us,” he continued. “A year of watching more film, getting stronger and getting faster I think will help improve our pass defense greatly.”

Talkington rushed for 1,251 yards and 13 touchdowns a season ago, while Romans totaled 1,137 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Both players averaged 6.4 yards per carry behind what was a veteran offensive line — an area of need this season as several new faces will step into prominent roles.

“We lost four starting offensive lineman,” Hott said. “That’s really going to be a point of emphasis to where we have to have guys step up and fill those voids. We have some sophomores who are going to have to step up into those roles.”

Romans also led the Tigers defensively a year ago, totaling 86 tackles, including 17 tackles for loss. T.J. Guire and Chance Burdette are a couple of other names who will be relied upon defensively this year for Elkins as well.

The Tigers open up the season at East Fairmont on August 24, but a key stretch looms in the middle of the year — one that will likely, again, determine whether or not Elkins is able to get back in the playoff mix.

“We have Fairmont Senior, Robert C. Byrd and Bridgeport in three consecutive weeks,” Hott said. “The beginning of our schedule with East Fairmont, Philip Barbour and Lewis County really helps us to prepare. Those are three good teams, but then we get into the meat of our schedule and that’s going to be one of the focal points for our team.”

Games against North Marion on September 21 and Lincoln on October 19 make the middle five games of Elkins’ schedule even more critical.

2018 Football Schedule

1 08/24/187:00PMA – EAST FAIRMONT  
3 09/07/187:00PMH – LEWIS COUNTY  
4 09/21/187:00PMA – NORTH MARION  
6 10/05/187:00PMA – ROBERT C. BYRD  
8 10/19/187:00PMH – LINCOLN  
9 10/26/187:00PMH – GRAFTON  
10 11/02/187:00PMA – BUCKHANNON-UPSHUR  
 wins: 0   lost: 0   ties: 0