Prep Football Preview and Review: Ellsworth and Prescott grids to clash for postseasonVisualize playoff bids as both the Ellsworth and Prescott high school football have them in their sights before entering into tonight's football game between the Cardinals and Panthers at Laney Field in Prescott. Kick-off is at 7 p.m.
By: Sean Scallon and Nick Gerhardt, Pierce County Herald
Visualize playoff bids as both the Ellsworth and Prescott high school football have them in their sites before entering into tonight's football game between the Cardinals and Panthers at Laney Field in Prescott. Kick-off is at 7 p.m.
Ellsworth, which had set making the playoff as a goal before this season, can clinch a bid with a win while Prescott needs to win its final two games to do the same.
Members of the Ellsworth football team are having fun this season and that has transformed the Panthers from a 2-7 team a year ago into a playoff contender.
“I think a big difference is we’re having fun,” junior Alex Campbell said. “I look forward to practice.”
Prescott is looking to get back the same spark, especially when they were 4-1 to start the season but have lost its two games, 12-7 to Baldwin-Woodville and 48-24 to Durand.
"The season is a grind and when you are as nicked up as we are and lacking in depth, it wares on you," PHS head coach Matt Smith. "Hopefully tonight, playing at home in front of a big crowd and knowing what's at stake will revive us."
The season has had its ups-and-downs for EHS too, with the Panthers going 2-2 to start the season. But they are 2-1 in the last three games.
Ellsworth got three of its starters back last week and that helped, head coach Clair Austin said.
“It just shows you in high school football that you gotta have your starters on the field if you’re going to compete at a high level,” Austin said.
The Panthers returned Dennis Schutz, Cody Laskaris and Lemoine Steffen, who helped the team secure a 48-24 victory over Osceola. It marked the first time Ellsworth won its Homecoming game since 2006 and it also marked the first time the Panthers have beaten Osceola at home since 1998.
Schutz had a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown and Steffen, a transfer student who became eligible that week, caught a 36-yard touchdown pass.
Ellsworth has also seen junior quarterback Jake Murphy emerge after a poor performance against New Richmond.
“We benched him for a series over in New Richmond because he was just 1-for-7,” Austin said. “I think he’s 15-for-22 for 350 yards ever since we’ve benched him. So he’s responded really well and I think the game is slowing down a little bit for him.”
The team’s motto this season is “next play,” meaning it can’t dwell on the past. That approach has helped through the team’s struggles.
“We play a next play mentality here and that’s all we can worry about,”
That's the same mentality a team which is struggling like the Cardinals are right now need according to Smith.
"We've had a good week of practice and it shows we're shaking off our losses," Smith said. "We're going to need to outplay Ellsworth to win."
To outplay Ellsworth, the Cardinals have to contain players like Alex Campbell. He now splits time between both positions, but it’s clear he’s an impact player. Campbell has 13 receptions for 307 yards and five touchdowns. He also has 267 yards rushing for five touchdowns.
“It’s just nightmare for the defense across. They always have to find Alex and then we have our other athletes to use,” Austin said.
Campbell’s presence in the backfield has given the Panthers more speed on the outside - Campbell runs a 4.44 40-yard dash – and opened things up for other players like running back Jacob Betthauser, who leads the team in rushing with 352 yards.
One of the hurdles Austin faced when taking over the program this season was getting teammates to believe in one another, he said. Last week against Osceola when four players scored touchdowns served as a prime example of the team believing in each other.
“That’s probably been our biggest battle here is getting to believe in each other because when I first got here there were a lot of individuals and to me, football is the ultimate team game and you’ve got to get them thinking on the same page,” Austin said.
Against Prescott this week the Panthers will have to play fundamentally sound defense. Prescott likes to run a lot of counters and Ellsworth will have to remain discipline to contain the running attack.
The Panthers have two games left in the regular season and have an outside shot at a share of the Middle Border Conference championship. Ellsworth will need to win out and have Somerset lose to Durand. The Panthers finish the season with Durand.
The Panthers have gotten things done this season with meager numbers in the upper classes. Ellsworth has just 18 juniors and seniors on the roster and eight players play both ways.
“When you’re looking at only 18 juniors and seniors it’s amazing what these kids have done so far this year,” Austin said. “They’re resilient, they believe and that’s half your battle with a football team.”
Not only are things looking up for the varsity program this season, but the lower classes have played well. The freshman team has gone undefeated while the sophomore and junior varsity teams have lost just two games each, Austin said.
Ellsworth is not the only team which can clinch a playoff berth with a win this week. Elmwood can do the same with a win at Prairie Farm Saturday. No. 8 ranked Spring Valley has already made the playoff field as is now competing for a Dunn-St. Croix title starting with a game at home tonight vs. Boyceville. And Plum City plays at No. 2 Clayton.
Dunn-St. Croix Conference Stats (Top 5)
RUSHING: Korey Jacobsen, St. Croix Central, 61 attempst, 592 yards, 7 touchdowns; Isaac Tuttle, Glenwood City, 99-552, 4 TDs; Greg Christoffel, Colfax, 85-500, 6 TDs; Steve Von Haden, Spring Valley, 123-492, 8 TDs; Justin Kattre, St. Croix Central, 74-486, 1 TD.
PASSING: Carl Moll, St. Croix Central, 84 attempts, 152 completions, 1,058; 13 touchdowns; Matt Hastereiter, Elk Mound, 74-171, 997 yards, 9 TDs; Hayden Fehr, Colfax, 60-127, 676 yards, 6 TDs; Jon Newton, Spring Valley, 33-79, 667 yards, 5 TDs; Ryan Bloom, Boyceville, 18-34, 302 yards, 1 TD
RECEIVING: Cody Nyhagen, St. Croix Central, 26 catches, 495 yards, 5 touchdowns; Ethan Kiekhafer, Colfax, 25-280 yards, 2 TDs; Dakota Tarnow, Elk Mound, 17-270 yards, 2 TDs; Cory Schlosser, Spring Valley, 8-246, 4 TDs; Austin DeLong, Elk Mound, 12-238 yards, 4 TDs
Lakeland South Conference Stats (Top 5)
RUSHING: Ryan Erickson, Alma/Pepin, 144 attempts, 1,051 yards, 15 touchdowns; Jyle Jones, Lake Holcombe, 121-664 yards, 7 TDs; Brett Baker, New Auburn, 45-511, 7 TDs; James Hoffman, Clayton, 59-335 yards; 5 TDs; Skyler Henry, Clayton, 77-349 yards, 2 TDs
PASSING: Kyle Larson, Clayton, 106 attempts, 160 completions, 1,720 yards, 22 touchdowns; Chad Fox, Plum City, 56-92, 853 yards, 9 TDs; Jaylen Case, Elmwood, 37-68, 66 yards, 7 TDs; Jacob Lerum, Alma/Pepin, 37-67, 548 yards, 7 TDs; Jacob Gjelhaug, Lake Holcombe, 42-74, 442 yards, 4 TDs
RECEIVING: Zach Schradle, Clayton, 28 catches, 567 yards, 9 touchdowns; Kris Krueger, 24-491 yards; 4 TDs; Matt Gretzlock, Clayton, 22-412, 4 TDs; Jordan Gilbertson, Clayton, 21-313, 6 TDs; Logan Wolf, Elmwood, 18-290 yards, 5 TDs