The Ell-Saline Cardinals tangled with the Smith Center Redmen Friday evening in a battle for the District 5 title in Class 1-A, but came up short against the top-ranked team in the Class, falling in defeat 34-0.
On the game’s first series, one of the most pivotal plays of the night gave Smith Center (8-0, 3-0) the early edge. Facing a 4th-and-1 from their own 21-yard-line, the Redmen elected to go for it. Senior tailback Jaden Atwood bounced to the left edge and bolted free down the sideline for a 79-yard touchdown run, giving Smith Center a 7-0 lead with 10:05 remaining in the first quarter.
Late in the period, Smith Center struck again, this time on a 20-yard touchdown run from senior tailback Colton Shoemaker to put the Redmen ahead 14-0.
Shoemaker added his second touchdown of the night on Smith Center’s next offensive series, this time from three yards out to make the score 20-0 with 9:12 to play before halftime.
Late in the first half, with the football at its own 45-yard-line, it appeared as if Ell-Saline (6-2, 2-1) would be content to head to the locker room down three scores, but the Cardinals elected to call a timeout with 11 seconds to go before halftime. On the ensuing play, Ell-Saline fumbled the quarterback to running back exchange, with Smith Center sophomore linebacker Jacob Kirchoff scooping up the loose football and returning it 39 yards for a Redmen touchdown. The extra point was blocked, leaving Smith Center on top 27-0 with two seconds left in the half.
The Cardinal offense performed better in the third quarter, but was unable to put points on the scoreboard despite maintaining possession for more than 10 minutes in the period, while running 19 plays on offense compared to four plays for the Redmen.
Smith Center added its final touchdown of the night with 6:55 to play in the contest, as Atwood added his second rushing touchdown of the game on a three-yard score.
The Cardinals managed just 101 yards of total offense in the matchup, all of it coming on the ground. Senior tailback Luke Parks led the way, finishing with 41 yards on 13 rushing attempts.
Ell-Saline will look to bounce back in the first round of the playoffs next Friday when they host the third-place team out of District 6, the Oakley Plainsmen. The Plainsmen enter the playoffs with a 3-5 record after falling to District 6 champion Plainsville on Friday evening 59-14.