Following a historic win last week in Garden Plain, Ellsworth had its eyes on its first Sub-State berth since 1987, but a stout defense from Norton stood in its way. The Blue Jays came in to Shanelek Field having allowed just 10 points per game this season, sporting an undefeated record, and they looked every bit the part, shutting out the Bearcat offense until late in the fourth quarter on the way to a 20-6 victory.
Ellsworth’s offense came out hot early, with a few chunk gains on its opening possession, but a Will Cravens fumble would halt the momentum and swing the trajectory of the contest.
Both defenses would trade stops, and bleed out the first quarter clock with a remarkable quickness, and both teams had but two possessions in the opening quarter.
In the second quarter, Ellsworth would again start to piece together a drive, but a second costly fumble, this time by Loden West, would set up Norton in plus territory, where they would manage two big pass plays, setting up a first and goal at the one, where Norton QB Eli Jones would push across the goal line for the game’s first score.
Norton would take a 6-0 lead into the locker room.
In the second half, it would be more of the same strong defenses, but Norton would matriculate the ball down the field bit by bit, once again bleeding the clock away. Their lengthy possessions, while empty throughout the third quarter, clearly exhausted the Ellsworth defense, and that would show in the fourth quarter, where Norton would finally break through again with just 5 minutes to go, on a second short run by Eli Jones. The Blue Jays would convert the two-point conversion and extend their lead to 14-0.
Ellsworth would quickly turn the ball over on downs, unable to put together a rebuttle, and Norton would strike again, this time on a 23-yard Touchdown pass from Eli Jones to Roman Hauser, as the Blue Jays removed all doubt with a 20-0 lead.
Ellsworth would not quit, however, battling until the very end, and putting together its best drive of the night on its final possession, finally getting on the scoreboard with a 28-yard Will Cravens Touchdown pass over the middle to Loden West.
The Bearcats’ historic 2023 season is not one that will soon be forgotten, posting 9 victories for just the third time in school history, on the heels of 13 impressive seniors which will leave a legacy at EHS and beyond. EHS ends the year at 9-2 overall.
Norton, with the win improves to 11-0 on the season, advancing to the 2A Semifinals, where they will meet up with Hoisington, who defeated Southeast of Saline 49-42.
Norton – 0 – 6 – 0 – 14 / 20
Ellsworth – 0 – 0 – 0 – 6 / 6
NHS – (2:08, 2nd) 1 yard run, Eli Jones (Kick No Good) – Norton 6, Ellsworth 0
NHS – (5:08, 4th) 1 yard run, Eli Jones (2-point try Good) – Norton 14, Ellsworth 0
NHS – (2:13, 4th) 23 yard pass, Eli Jones to Roman Hauser (Kick No Good) – Norton 20, Ellsworth 0
EHS – ():49, 4th) 28 yard pass, Will Cravens to Loden West (2-point try No Good) – Norton 20, Ellsworth 6