By Reagan Hoverman
The Ellsworth Panthers football team concluded its regular season schedule on Friday, Oct. 15, with a 57-0 victory against the Amery Warriors. The win capped off a second consecutive undefeated season for the Ellsworth Panthers, a team that will go into the playoffs averaging over 47 points per game.
The Ellsworth Panthers, under the direction of head coach Rob Heller, have become the premier team in the Middle Border Conference. The game against the Amery Warriors was a demonstration of the well-oiled machine that Ellsworth has become.
Less than three minutes into the game, senior Ashten Quade scored on a two-yard touchdown run to give Ellsworth an 8-0 advantage after a successful two-point conversion. Ellsworth’s defense held strong against the Amery offense and quickly got the ball back to the Panthers. The next score was also by Quade, who took a handoff to the endzone to give Ellsworth a 14-0 lead.
With 7:33 left in the second quarter, senior quarterback Jack Janke ran a play-action bootleg pass and connected with senior tight end Ryan Matzek on a 22-yard touchdown to give Ellsworth a 22-0 lead. The Ellsworth scoring barrage continued throughout the second quarter. By the halftime intermission, the Ellsworth lead was 38-0.
Because the Panthers’ lead was more than 35 points, running clock
See UNDEFEATED, Page B-5
Ellsworth senior quarterback Jack Janke battles through several Warrior tackles as he makes his way down the sideline. Janke and the Panthers defeated Amery 57-0 on Friday, Oct. 15. Photo by Reagan Hoverman began at the start of the third quarter and continued until the game was over. Younger players, mostly backups and third-string players played the majority of the action in the second half because the game was essentially decided in the second quarter.
In the second half, the reserves were still able to continue the shutout of the Warriors, all while adding 19 more points in the final 24 minutes of play. The final score was a 57-0 victory for Ellsworth. Of the eight touchdowns scored by Ellsworth, seven of them came from different players. Janke led the Panthers’ offense for the evening with 112 passing yards, two touchdowns, and eight completions coming from 14 attempts.
The perfect 8-0 regular season for Ellsworth was in large part because of Ellsworth’s dynamic offense. A veteran group of players, consisting of mostly seniors, the Ellsworth offense features players such as Max Grand, Jack Janke, Ashten Quade and Ryan Matzek. The team is averaging 47.6 points per game and has tallied over 3,000 yards of offense this year. After the game, Janke talked about what it’s like to have the aforementioned dynamic players on the offense.
“It’s awesome, you get the ball to them and they do the rest,” Janke said. “Our offensive line has also been awesome this year, getting us into space and we’ve got guys that have the speed to capitalize on it. It’s hard to stop with those guys.”
Janke talked about last season, how it was cut short, and what it means to be a part of another special Ellsworth football team.
“Last year was a blessing to even be able to play,” Janke said. “I was grateful for my teammates, how we played together and going 8-0. We’re continuing to build off of it this year, working hard and staying together. I’m just so proud and honored to be a part of this team.”
After the 57-0-win, coach Heller spoke about how special this season has been, and what they’ve done to get to this point for the second consecutive season.
“They’re a pleasure to work with, every single one of them,” Heller said. “The players, the coaches, they work hard every week. They had a great offseason, came into the year with a chip on their shoulder about unfinished business, and have embraced the motto of going 1-0 each week. The opportunity is in front of (the team) and I’m really proud of them.”
Coach Heller addressed last year’s team, how the season was unfortunately impacted by the COVID19 pandemic, and how the team is poised to make another run in the playoffs this season.
“It was a messed-up year for everyone across the board and across the state,” Heller said. “We love those four seniors we had, and they did a great job. I think we’re really confident (heading into the playoffs). This group of seniors took a lot of lumps as sophomores and I think that’s valuable. We’ve been waiting for this group for a while and we want to continue this journey one week at a time.”
Heller stated that although game preparation and watching film stays the same, some COVID-19 rules could potentially impact the season. He said that they might have to make some decisions with the staff and talk to the administration about potentially shrinking the roster to what he called a playoff roster. The reason would be to limit potential contact tracing or exposure tracing for the starters. A smaller roster means fewer interactions between players and a smaller chance of COVID rules impacting the playoffs. That decision has yet to be finalized.
The playoff bracket was released late in the night on Friday, Oct. 15. In the Division 4 bracket, Ellsworth is a number two seed and will host its first game of the postseason. That game will be on Friday, Oct. 22, at home against Saint Croix Central at 7 p.m.
Ellsworth and Saint Croix Central have already met this season in Middle Border Conference play. On Friday, Oct. 8, the two teams clashed in the penultimate regular season game. In that matchup, Ellsworth dominated all three phases of the game and defeated Saint Croix Central 40-7.
If victorious on Friday night, Ellsworth would host either Altoona or Osceola in the second round of the playoffs on Friday, Oct. 29.