The Ellsworth Panthers football team played "tough as heck," according to their co-head coach Jason Janke, but couldn't seal the deal against the No. 29 state-ranked New Richmond Tigers on Friday, Sept. 29.
The Panthers (5-2, 3-2) fell 35-21, but they refused to make the win easy for the Tigers (6-3, 5-1).
Ellsworth's offense racked up a total of 258 yards and scored three touchdowns to stay in the game, but New Richmond proved to be a tough match for the Panthers' defense.
"Our team played well throughout the game, but we were worn down by New Richmond's size and depth," Janke said.
Shane Elsen led the team defensively with eight tackles, followed by Dalton George (six) and Alex Motley (five-and-a-half). The Panthers were able to hold the Tigers scoreless in the first quarter, and were the first team to get on the board when senior Owen Matzek ran an interception thrown by New Richmond's quarterback Mikah Kier back for a touchdown.
Matzek ended up breaking his collarbone on his pick-six and still managed to score for his team. Talk about toughness.
"We're incredibly proud of our kids and the way they played," Janke said.
The Tigers responded with full force after Matzek's gritty play and scored the next three touchdowns of the game, making the score 21-7 with 3:23 left in the third quarter.
But the Panthers kept fighting.
Logan Melstrom scored for the Panthers on a 70-yard run before the third quarter was complete to make it 21-14, but New Richmond would be the last team to score in the third quarter with a 13-yard run from Blake Kretovics.
The Panthers had it in them to make one more comeback attempt with a pass from Drake Flom that resulted in a 12-yard catching touchdown by Motley, and almost recovered their own onside kick, but once again, the Tigers' offense countered with a 20-yard passing touchdown leaving the final score at 35-21.
Flom completed 13 of 21 passing attempts for a total of 117 yards and one touchdown.
The Panthers' rushing game was led by Melstrom who ran for 132 yards, averaging nearly eight yards per attempt.
Motley was the leader on the receiving end, and he recorded 53 yards from six catches.
Coach Janke was also impressed with Ryan McGregor's game, and said that the senior played very well on both sides of the ball. McGregor caught four passes for 44 yards, and also contributed one-and-a-half tackles on the defensive end.
Ellsworth will return to their home field on Friday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. where they'll face another tough Middle Border opponent, the undefeated Osceola Chieftans (7-0, 5-0).