The Ell-Saline Cardinal football squad opened its playoff run in class 1-A Friday night at the Cardinals’ Nest in Brookville, cruising past the La Crosse Leopards 56-12. By the end of the first quarter, Ell-Saline had all but stamped its ticket to the second round.
On the Cardinals’ first play from scrimmage, senior quarterback Nick Davenport hit sophomore wide receiver Treyton Peterson on a 59-yard touchdown pass, putting Ell-Saline up 7-0.
Following a three-and-out from La Crosse, Ell-Saline would score on its next play from scrimmage, this time on a 69-yard burst from junior tailback Luke Parks, and with 10:04 to play in the first quarter, the Cardinals led 14-0.
Less than two minutes of game action later, Davenport struck again, taking his only carry of the night 36 yards to paydirt to give Ell-Saline a 21-0 advantage.
On Ell-Saline’s next offensive series, junior slot back Sawyer Kramer rushed 20 yards for another Cardinal touchdown, making the score 28-0.
After forcing another three-and-out, Ell-Saline took over at the La Crosse 43-yard-line. On the ensuing play, sophomore tailback Keenan Drees found the edge, rushing 43 yards down the sideline for the Cardinal touchdown, and with 3:09 remaining in the first quarter, Ell-Saline had roared out to a 35-0 advantage.
Incredibly, Peterson, Davenport, Parks, Kramer and Drees each scored a touchdown on their first respective touches of the game.
La Crosse (3-6) would crack the scoreboard with 8:09 to play in the second quarter as junior quarterback Hunter Morgan found fullback Keldon Day on a one-yard touchdown pass. Following a failed two-point conversion try, Ell-Saline found its lead trimmed to 35-6, but would answer right back. 51 seconds later, Davenport connected on his second touchdown pass of the night, connecting with Kramer for a 52-yard strike down the near sideline, giving Ell-Saline a 42-6 lead heading into the locker room.
In the second half, Ell-Saline backup quarterback T.J. Morrical would take control of the reigns. The sophomore rushed for two touchdowns, the first a one-yard run off the left edge with 18 seconds to play in the third quarter, the second a 15-yard tote with 6:34 to play in the game.
The Leopards lone second-half score came on its first second half possession, as Morgan hit freshman slot back Colby Stull on a 20-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter.
Ell-Saline (7-2) racked up 479 yards of total offense in the win, with the majority of damage coming on the ground as the Cardinals tallied 312 rushing yards. Both Parks and Drees topped the century mark, with both Cardinal tailbacks doing so on just three carries a piece. Parks finished with 107 yards on the ground, while Drees finished with 100 rushing yards.
Through the air, Davenport was a perfect 5-for-5 for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Peterson led the Cardinal receiving corps in both catches and yardage, with three grabs for 77 yards.
With the win, Ell-Saline moves into the round of 16 in the Class 1-A playoffs, where they’ll look for redemption in a battle of the birds, squaring off with the Plainville Cardinals. Plainville advanced with a 54-8 victory over Republic County on Friday evening.
Plainville ended Ell-Saline’s season with a controversial double-overtime victory in the state quarterfinal round one season ago.