Elon University football struggled to maintain their lead, resulting in a 20-17 loss against James Madison University in their first conference matchup of the season. Freshman and third-string quarterback JR Martin made his season debut, due to the first and second string both being out for injuries.

Martin said that moving forward, he has a lot to learn to improve his level of play as a freshman. 

“There’s a lot of things I gotta work on being young,” Martin said. “I grew a lot today and I’m gonna continue to grow throughout the season, throughout my career.” 

The Phoenix started off strong, scoring a field goal in the first quarter and a touchdown in the second quarter by wide receiver Bryson Daughtry. With 6 seconds left in the 2nd quarter, the Phoenix scored another touchdown, giving them a 17-3 lead by halftime. 

A major play in the 3rd quarter of a wide-open James Madison interception was reversed because the player stepped out of bounds. That would have counted as a 64 yard interception return, had he not stepped out on the 48-yard line. This was just one of several lost opportunities for the Dukes.

The Dukes recovered in the fourth quarter with second string quarterback Gage Moloney, even though they struggled to maintain footing throughout the first half. The Phoenix only scored one field goal during the entire second half. 

Both a personal foul and a false start caused the Dukes to lose a scoring opportunity in the first half. Kris Thornton was the leading receiver for the team, with an overall total of 53 yards. They scored two touchdowns in the final quarter to give them the 20-17 win. 

Daughtry was the leading receiver for the Phoenix, with a net total of 36 yards. Jaylan Thomas was the leading rusher, with a net total of 49 rushing yards. 

Head Coach Tony Trisciani said despite losing a close game, he is proud of the team for their performance throughout the game. He also reminded them that they have another opportunity to beat James Madison on April 10. Trisciani said there were aspects of the game he was happy with, but that does not mean there is no improvement that needs to be made.

“I saw an offensive that believed in its defense. Then, I saw a defense that believed in its offense. We’ve got to come together collectively, so we can win the football game the second time,” Trisciani said. 

The team will return to Rhodes Stadium for a home game next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. to face the University of Richmond Spiders.