Minneapolis Lions advance to 3-1 on the season with a 14-13 victory over the Ellsworth Bearcats on the road tonight. This game opened up District play for both squads.
Ellsworth jumped out on top to start the game. On their opening possession, the Bearcats put together a 5:40 drive that ended with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Junior Morgan Kelly to Senior Grant Gwinner. Ellsworth would miss the extra point to lead, 6-0.
Minneapolis would answer back on their opening drive. Junior Derek Freel ran it in from eight yards out to cap off a 2:50 drive. Senior Kenny Kirk converted the extra point to give the Lions the lead, 7-6, with 3:20 left in the first quarter.
Defenses stepped up the rest of the first half with turnovers playing a big part. First, Ellsworth’s Senior Bransen Schulte picked off Freel in the endzone to end a promising Minneapolis drive. Next, Minneapolis’ Senior Derek Pieschel picked off Kelly near midfield with under three minutes left to go in the first half to give Minneapolis the ball. But then, with 1:25 left to go before the break, the Bearcats’ Kash Travnichek intercepted Freel and returned it 66 yards for a touchdown to recapture the lead, 13-7, by the half.
Minneapolis opened the second half with possession. The Lions would drive down field offensively, killing 6:33 off the clock, but came up empty. No one would score in the third quarter as it remained, 13-7, going into the fourth.
The Lions were faced with a fourth-and-fourteen inside the Bearcats’ 30-yard line with under nine minutes left to play when Freel connected with Junior Kaden Griffin on a 25-yard pass to give Minneapolis a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. A fumble snap on first down moved the Lions back five yards. Pieschel lost a yard on a carry on second down. Senior Tyson Villalpando, then, lost a yard on third down to bring up a fourth-and-goal from the 8-yard line. With 7:46 left in the game, Freel would find Senior Kaden McCullick in the endzone for a 8-yard touchdown pass. Kirk made another extra point to give the Lions the lead again, 14-13.
Ellsworth drove down the field taking 6:47 off the clock to set up a 34-yard field goal attempt from Junior kicker Patrick Hernandez. Hernandez would miss the field goal with 59.6 left to go to seal the win for Minneapolis.
The Lions rushed for 190 yards, while Freel was 4-for-8 for 46 yards and a touchdown through the air. Freel led the team in rushing with 20 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown. Villalpando had 11 rushes for 40 yards. Sophomore Trent Moeckel had 26 yards on five carries, as well as 23 yards through the air on a fake-punt pass to McCullick.
Minneapolis heads home next week to face Norton in another District matchup.