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Panthers get their groove back

Logan Melstrom breaks through the hole for a long gain Friday, Sept. 1. Jon Claesson / Contributor

The Panthers returned to form last week.

After dropping a Week 3 game to the defending state champions, Ellsworth rebounded Friday, Sept. 8, with a 42-14 road win over Amery.

The Panthers amassed 444 total yards in the game, and punched in four touchdowns on the ground and two more by air in the Middle Border Conference matchup.

Co-head coach Rob Heller said Ellsworth players on both sides of the ball showed resilience after the previous week's loss to St. Croix Central.

"Our offense came out with an opening drive that was by far our best drive of the season and put six points on the board," he said. "The defense was able to hold its own by keeping the big plays to a minimum and getting pressure on the quarterback."

Senior quarterback Drake Flom completed eight of 12 passes for 164 yards and two passing touchdowns.

Junior running back Logan Melstrom led Ellsworth's rushing attack with 20 carries for 151 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Ryan McGregor pounded out another 88 rushing yards on seven carries to go with a touchdown. Flom also ran in a touchdown.

McGregor also caught two passes for 87 yards and a touchdown, while Melstrom hauled in three passes for 53 yards and a receiving touchdown.

Hellers said the game plan was to make Amery play a one-dimensional game, "which we did by getting up two scores quickly."

McGregor put Ellsworth on the board courtesy of an eight-yard touchdown scamper with 6:13 left in the first quarter. Flom found Melstrom on a 23-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to put Ellsworth up 14-0 after McGregor completed a two-point conversion run.

Amery countered with a second-quarter touchdown pass, drawing the score to 14-6, but the Panthers tacked on another Flom touchdown to give Ellsworth a 21-6 halftime lead.

"Once we were able to get them throwing the ball, we had to make some adjustments, to which the kids responded very well — and keep our foot on the gas," Heller said.

The Panthers put up two more scores, building a 35-6 third-quarter lead. Amery scored once more in the game, but it was as close as the Warriors got, with Ellsworth tacking on its final touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 32-yard Melstrom run.

"It was a great win for our program and the kids executed the game plan very well," Heller said. "Any time you hold a team to 200 yards of offense, you are going to have a chance to win the game."

Caleb Linder and Wyatt Hines led Ellsworth with six-and-a-half tackles apiece. Meanwhile, Owen Matzek and Dalton George each recorded a sack for the Panthers, who held Amery to 202 yards of total offense. Matzek was also responsible for a forced fumble.

The win improved Ellsworth to 3-1 on the season and 1-1 in MBC play. The Panthers play host Friday to Somerset.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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