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Ellsworth dominates Somerset in home opener

Ellsworth dominates  Somerset in home opener Ellsworth dominates  Somerset in home opener

The Ellsworth Panthers football team improved to 3-0 for the season after a 53-0 blowout victory in its home opener against the Somerset Spartans on Friday, Sept. 10.

It was a full team effort for the Ellsworth Panthers against Somerset on Friday night. In the first quarter alone, the Panthers scored 38 points and put the game out of reach with significant contributions coming from star running back Max Grand and quarterback Jack Janke.

Ellsworth’s high-powered offense got going early. With just over 11 minutes remaining in the first quarter, Grand broke loose on a 51-yard run culminating in a touchdown celebration in the endzone. Less than three minutes later Grand was back at it again, as he punched in a two-yard touchdown run. Janke’s twopoint conversion pass was converted, giving the Panthers a 14-0 lead. After the game, Ellsworth head coach Rob Heller reflected on Grand’s ability as a rusher.

“It was nice to see Max (Grand) go off,” Heller said. “I hate to say it was kind of a slow start, but that kid is explosive, and he showed his explosiveness tonight. He got us off on the right foot and kind of kickstarted the whole game and it was all downhill after that. He’s a fun player to coach.”

With just under six minutes to go in the first quarter, the Somerset special teams jogged out to the field to punt the ball back to Ellsworth. When the snap came to the Somerset punter there wasn’t enough time to get the kick away and it was partially blocked. Ellsworth’s Ryan Matzek scooped the ball up at the 23yard line and returned the blocked punt for a touchdown giving the Panthers a 22-0 lead after a successful two-point conversion.

Janke, the senior Ellsworth quarterback, also put his athleticism on full display in the first quarter against the Spartans. With 3:32 remaining in the first quarter the Panthers had the ball on their 43-yard line. Janke received the snap and began navigating the field behind his offensive line. He quickly bounced outside of the left tackle and saw significant daylight. Janke couldn’t be caught and gave Ellsworth a 30-0 lead after his 57-yard touchdown run.

The offensive damage wasn’t yet done for Ellsworth. The special teams unit once again stepped up with just under two minutes remaining in the first quarter. Janke was back deep to return another Somerset punt. It was a booming kick, as Janke fielded it at his 15-yard line. Outstanding Ellsworth blocking helped Janke break free during the return. After shaking a few Spartan defenders, he was sprinting down the sideline on his way to an 85yard punt return touchdown – the second special teams’ touchdown of the first quarter. Ellsworth led 38-0 by the start of the second quarter. After the game, coach Heller reflected on the success in all aspects of football – offense, defense and special teams.

“Usually when you win two aspects of the game, you’re doing pretty good and give yourself a chance to win,” Heller said. “But when you’re taking care of all three, it’s kind of like cruise control. These guys are playing really good football right now and they’ve been doing it for four games right now. They’re picking up right where they left off last year.”

During the remaining three quarters of action, Heller put in some of his younger players to get experience at the varsity level, since the game was essentially put away at the end of the first quarter. He talked about how important it is to get younger guys minutes, especially at home in front of a full crowd.

“They love this, and the best part about it is that the starters love seeing those guys get reps,” Heller said. “They’re happy and playing really good team football. Tonight, was kind of special after what we did last year. For those young guys to get reps in front of a big crowd like this – to feel that emotion and that excitement for the season, I think that’s awesome for those kids. I couldn’t be happier for them.”

Those reserve players continued adding to an already extensive Ellsworth lead. The Panthers added a touchdown in the second and third quarters respectively extending the lead to 53-0 which ended up being the final score for the evening.

Star running back Grand finished the game with 112 rushing yards on four carries, two of which found the endzone for Ellsworth touchdowns. Despite having a fantastic season by nearly any measurables, Grand was quick to give credit elsewhere in the postgame.

“It all starts with the offensive line,” Grand said after the game. “You’ve got five or six outstanding offensive linemen, guys that have a lot of experience. It all starts with them. We wouldn’t have a good pass game or run game without a good offensive line.”

Grand also spoke of versatile weapons on the perimeter, players that have been on state championship teams in the past, including junior wide receiver Bo Hines and senior wide receiver Ashten Quade.

“We’ve got state championship guys on the perimeter,” Grand said. “When you have that kind of speed and that kind of athleticism on the perimeter, it’s kind of hard to stop. That’s where I think we get a lot of our success from.”

The success comes without question, as Ellsworth is currently ranked second in the state for all Division Four high school football teams, trailing only Catholic Memorial in the weekly coaches’ poll rankings.

With the victory against the Spartans on Friday night, Ellsworth moved into a threeway tie for first place in the Middle Border Conference standings, joining the Osceola Chieftains and the Prescott Cardinals.

The next game for Heller’s roster is on Friday, Sept. 17, at home against Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau, a team that has a 1-3 record through the first four weeks of the season. The kickoff for that game is slated for 7 p.m.

Photo by Reagan Hoverman

Photo by Reagan Hoverman

Ellsworth senior quarterback Jack Janke streaking down the sideline on the way to a punt return touchdown for the Panthers on Friday, Sept. 10.