ST. LOUIS • Ezekiel Elliott fought back the tears the best he could.
The John Burroughs standout senior running back had done everything he could in the Missouri Class 3 championship game on Friday afternoon, and it still wasn’t enough to prevent a heartbreaking 35-22 loss to Maryville at the Edward Jones Dome.
“You put in so many hours with your boys, your brothers, all season for the past four years, and you aren’t able to accomplish what you wanted to,” Elliott said. “So it hurts a lot. But you have to be strong. I have to be strong for my boys back in the locker room. I can’t be moping around. I have to show them that it’s not over, it’s not over. I believe in them. I believe they can come back next year. They are going to win a state championship.”
The Ohio State recruit broke the championship game record for all-purpose yards with 419, eclipsing the 365 former University of Missouri running back Derrick Washington racked up in Raymore-Peculiar’s 42-32 win against Kirkwood in the Class 5 title game in 2006.
The 6-foot senior rushed 18 times for 218 yards and two touchdowns, including a 79-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and a 1-yard scoring surge late in the third that cut the deficit to 28-22. He caught five passes for 72 yards and returned four kicks for another 129 yards, including a 84-yard return for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Maryville coach Matt Webb said Elliott was “awesome.” Spoofhounds offensive lineman Caleb Mather called him “amazing.”
Friday at the Dome, Elliott showed the kind of player he has been his final two seasons and showed glimpses of as a sophomore, an incredible three-year run in which the Bombers have won 40 games and lost just four and now finished second in Class 3 three straight times.
“He’s just a phenomenal player,” Burroughs coach Gus Frerotte said. “A great mind for the sport. He really carried our team in a lot of these games. He wanted to put us on his back, and we did that quite a few games and he hasn’t let us down yet.”
Elliott finished his senior season with 2,153 yards rushing, 2,533 total yards, 3,022 all-purpose yards and 50 touchdowns. He scored 42 as a junior and eight as a sophomore, giving him 92 over two seasons and 100 over three — more than Chaminade’s Rob Standard (98) and Hazelwood Central’s Tony Van Zant (91) and trailing only Timberland’s Montee Ball (107) among area players. Those three all played four years.
But it wasn’t enough, which left the running back with a bittersweet feeling when asked about his individual accomplishments afterward.
It was hard for Elliott to look past a third straight runner-up finish.
When he accepted the second-place trophy on his team’s behalf, with tears in his eyes, he cradled it in his left arm like a football. Then he sought out a teammate, freshman running back Chris Booker, so he could deliver a message — get the Bombers back to the Dome to win that elusive state championship.