The Ell-Saline Cardinals celebrated homecoming in style on Friday night with a hard-fought 14-6 victory over Hutchinson Trinity in a matchup of undefeated Heart of America league teams.
While Ell-Saline (5-0) came away with the victory, it was Hutchinson Trinity (4-1) who cracked the scoreboard first. After both defenses held serve throughout the first 21 minutes of action, the Celtics found the end zone with 3:21 remaining in the 2nd quarter on an 11-yard touchdown run between the tackles from junior tailback Aaron Guerrero. After the extra point was pulled wide left, Trinity led 6-0.
It wouldn’t take long for the Cardinals to respond. Following a big 44-yard pass completion from Ell-Saline junior quarterback Nick Davenport to sophomore received Sawyer Kramer to move deep into Trinity territory, the Cards capped off the drive just moments later as Davenport was able to sneak it across the goal line from a yard out.with 1:09 to play before halftime. Following a successful PAT from junior place kicker Eric Rincon, the Cards took their first lead of the night at 7-6 – a lead they would not relinquish.
The lone second half score came on a beautifully-designed play fake. Working out of the double wing formation, Davenport faked the give to the tailback, then faked to the wingback, following the lead block of the wingback to bounce it off the right edge down the far sideline 22 yards untouched for the score. After another successful Rincon kick, Ell-Saline extended their advantage to 14-6, the eventual final score.
The Ell-Saline defense championed the winning effort Friday night, with a number of big stops on the evening. Early in the second quarter, Trinity had it 1st and goal from the Ell-Saline 2-yard line. After three unsuccessful inside rushing attempts, the Celtics junior quarterback Kaleb Hammeke bounced it outside on 4th and goal from inside the one, but Kramer met Hammeke one-on-one in the open field to force a turnover on downs at the 2-yard line.
In the second half, Trinity drove into Ell-Saline territory three times. Twice the Celtics were turned away on downs, with Cardinal senior cornerback Bryce Lange picking off a Hammeke pass inside the red zone for another big stop.
Unofficially, Davenport finished the night 7-14 passing for 118 yards with an interception. Kramer caught three balls for 77 yards, while senior Spencer Came caught two passes for 24 yards, senior Zaide Korb hauled in one pass for 18 yards and junior Joel Came had one catch for a loss of one yard.
At halftime, Ell-Saline had just 24 yards rushing on 19 carries, but found some room to roam in the second half, finishing the night with 46 carries for 134 yards.
Davenport blazed the trail with 28 carries for 89 yards and two touchdowns. J. Came added 16 yards on nine rushing attempts, Kramer ran five times for 12 yards, sophomore Owen Bradley rushed twice for 13 yards, while Korb also had two totes, good for four yards.
With the win, coupled with a surprise Marion loss at home to Sterling on Friday night, Ell-Saline will have an opportunity to win the Heart of America League title outright next Friday night as the Cards travel to Sterling to face off with the Sterling Black Bears, Ell-Saline’s final tune-up before beginning district play in Week 7 at home against Republic County.
By Morgan Lillich
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