Earlier this week, Benjamin four-star cornerback Kaiir Elam received his jersey for the 2019 Under Armour All-America Game. On Friday night, the senior showed what he can do on special teams and offense.
Elam returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, made an athletic catch to keep his team’s first possession alive and scored on a 63-yard catch-and-run to help Benjamin remain unbeaten with a 47-18 rout of Key West.
Quarterback Santino Marucci, Joseph Mariani, Josh Pierre-Louis and Roshaun Downie also scored touchdowns for the Buccaneers (5-0, 4-0 Southeastern Football Conference). Santucci completed 7-of-14 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
The Conchs (3-2, 3-2) lost two fumbles deep in its territory in the first half, which the Buccaneers turned into 10 points.
The game began with Elam taking the kickoff at his 16, finding room down the right sideline, making a hard cut past a falling Key West kicker and continuing into the end zone for a 7-0 lead only 16 seconds into the game.
“That’s the one guy we didn’t want to kick to,” Key West coach John Hughes said. “We said ‘we’re not kicking to him’ all week, and we kicked to him twice, so we’re going to have a conversation with our kicker about that. Obviously, you don’t want to kick to a guy with that skill set, and he made us pay for it. He’s a great player.”
“That was perfect blocking, and I just saw the hole and I just took off,” said Elam, whose college suitors include Florida.
On the ensuing possession, Benjamin forced a fumble and got the ball back on the Key West 25. On fourth-and-18 from the 33, a scrambling Marucci heaved a desperation pass from near the right sideline toward the left corner of the end zone. Elam leaped high over two defenders and came down with the ball at the 8. A few plays later, Lowell Carr kicked a 23-yard field goal to push the lead to 10-0.
“When the ball is in the air, it’s my ball if it’s in my vicinity,” Elam said. “I was wide open for a touchdown, but I had to come back for it and make a play, like I’m supposed to.”
Midway through the second quarter, Santucci’s 12-yard pass on third-and-goal to Mariani expanded the lead to 17-0. After Key West answered with a 64-yard drive to get within 17-6, Benjamin put the game away with two touchdowns in the final minute of the half.
On third-and-15, Marucci threw deep and connected with Downie for a 48-yard gain. On the next snap, Marucci ran it in from the 3 to make the score 23-6 with 52 seconds left in the half.
Moments later, Key West fumbled on its own 14. Pierre-Louis ran it in on the next snap to give Benjamin a 30-6 halftime lead.
Elam increased the lead to 40-12 midway through the third quarter when he used his speed to turn a 15-yard catch into a 63-yard touchdown.
“They embarrassed us tonight,” Hughes said. “Their quarterback made good reads and he was accurate tonight. Defensively, we couldn’t pick up their blitzing linebackers and they shut down our option game.”