The Ell-Saline Cardinal football squad began district play Friday evening with a resounding road victory, taking down fellow District 5 foe Republic County 55-14, spoiling senior night for the Buffaloes.
Due to the threat of lightning, kickoff occurred at 4:00pm rather than the customary 7:00pm start time, but the early kick didn’t phase Cardinals.
After the Cardinal defense forced a Republic County (0-6, 0-1) turnover on downs on the Buffaloes’ first possession, Ell-Saline (5-1, 1-0) wasted no time putting points onto the scoreboard, as junior slot receiver Sawyer Kramer took it into the end zone with 8:37 remaining in the opening quarter on a 27-yard carry to cap off a brief, three-play, 32-yard drive, giving Ell-Saline the early advantage.
The Cardinals never trailed on the night, outscoring Republic County 13-0 in the first quarter, then adding another 14 points in the second to take a 27-0 lead into halftime.
While the Buffaloes found their offense after the break, scoring two third-quarter touchdowns, Ell-Saline put up three more of its own in the period to grow the advantage to 48-14 entering the fourth quarter.
The Cardinal offense amassed 577 yards of total offense on the night, led by stellar play from a host of Ell-Saline standouts.
Ell-Saline senior quarterback Nick Davenport entered the game as Ell-Saline’s leading rusher on the season, but did not attempt a carry on the night while nursing an ankle injury. Instead, it was an opportunity for Davenport to showcase his passing prowess, going 14-for-16 for 330 yards through the air with three touchdown passes.
Kramer finished the night with 96 yards and a touchdown on the ground on just four carries. Junior tailback Luke Parks added 52 yards and two touchdowns, also on four carries. Senior Joel Came and sophomore T.J. Morrical each tallied a team-high eight rushing attempts in the game with Came rushing for 21 yards and a touchdown, and Morrical accumulating 37 yards on the ground.
Kramer, Parks and sophomore wide receiver Treyton Peterson all shined in the Cardinal receiving corps. Kramer hauled in five catches for 88 yards, with Parks amassing 126 receiving yards on three catches – two of which went for touchdowns. Peterson chipped in four grabs for 62 yards and a score.
Ell-Saline returns home next Friday night to host the Sacred Heart Knights in District 5 action, while Republic County faces the unenviable task of traveling west to take on the state’s top-ranked team in Class 1-A, the defending state champion Smith Center Redmen.