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Future looks bright for Panthers football despite rainy loss

Shane Elsen snaps the ball to Drake Flom in Ellsworth's game against Osceola on Friday, Oct. 6. Photo courtesy of Jon Claesson.1 / 2
Ryan McGregor completes one of his five solo tackles in Ellsworth's game against the Osceola Chieftains on Friday, Oct. 6. Photo courtesy of Jon Claesson.2 / 2

It's difficult to play well against an undefeated football team. It's especially difficult to do so in rainy weather.

Despite the less than ideal conditions that the Ellsworth Panthers football team (5-3, 3-3) was faced with in their game against the Osceola Chieftains (8-0) on Friday, Oct. 6, Panthers co-head coach Jason Janke believes his team's performance set the stage for a real positive culture in Panther football in the years to come.

"Our kids played hard and basically played the No. 1-ranked team in the state to a standoff," Janke said. "We were proud of the kids' effort and their ability to hang in there all night in tough conditions."

That Panthers effort held the Chieftains scoreless until the third quarter of the game. Osceola's Michael Koehler ran for a three-yard rushing touchdown with 22 seconds left in the third quarter, marking the first and last time any points would be added to the scoreboard in the Middle Border Conference matchup. The final score of the game was 6-0.

"Offensively, we had a few opportunities that we just couldn't cash-in on," Janke said. "Our defense set us up with a turnover early and had we put that in the end-zone, I think we would have pulled off the upset."

Ellsworth's defense forced four Osceola turnovers on Friday night, including an interception that was picked off by Alex Motley.

Co-head coach Rob Heller said Ellsworth's defensive line did a great job limiting Osceola's fullback, and that the Panther linebackers played very well against both their run and their pass.

"Our defense collectively created four turnovers with three fumble recoveries and one interception by Alex Motley, who had a phenomenal game on Friday," Heller said. "Usually when you get four turnovers you are in a very good situation, and setting yourself up for a victory, however, we played a very physical and well-coached football team on a very slick track and gave up one big play that turned out to be the deciding factor."

Many Panthers players contributed to their team's defensive play, but Shane Elsen led the Panthers in tackles (nine), and Caleb Linder added seven-and-a-half tackles behind Elsen.

Drake Flom completed 5-19 passing attempts, compared to Osceola's quarterback, Brett Carlson, who completed 7-9. Flom also rushed for 32 yards on seven carries.

Logan Melstrom was the Panthers' go-to rushing man once again. The running back ran for 84 yards on 23 attempts. Ryan McGregor also tallied up a total of 14 rushing yards on seven attempts.

Four Panther wide receivers saw some action against Osceola. Motley caught one 37-yard pass from Flom, McGregor caught a 28-yard pass, Logan Benson recorded 19 passing yards off of two catches and Eric Lange caught one five-yard pass.

"The kids created some real excitement on Friday," Janke said. "Hopefully we carry that over into next week."

The Panthers head to Prescott on Friday, Oct. 13 where they'll battle against the Cardinals in the last game of the regular season.

"Our kids are playing great football at the right time in the season," Heller said. "Hopefully we can take care of business at Prescott and get into the dance, where anything can happen."

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