Wolves look to rebuild

Graduation depletes roster as Ely gears up for season debut

by Tom Coombe -

It’s not only a new season, but a new reality of sorts for the Ely Timberwolves.
After dominating its high school football opponents the last several years, including four state tournament berths in the last five seasons and two in a row, Ely is in a bit of a rebuilding mode this fall.
When the Wolves go on the field Thursday night (6 p.m.) at Ely School Stadium to take on visiting Ogilvie, they’ll be missing 10 graduated seniors who played key roles in back-to-back, perfect regular seasons.
“It’s going to be different,” said Ely Head Coach Brian Lamppa. “The experience, the lack of depth. That’s huge.”
Compound the hits to graduation with transfers, injuries and eligibility, and the Wolves will bear little resemblance to the team that went 10-1 and outscored its foes 359-117 last season.
But Lamppa, who is beginning his eighth season at the helm, has a handful of experienced hands to turn to.
It starts under center, where Carter Gaulke returns at quarterback and begins his fourth season as a starter.
Gaulke directed an Ely offense that was explosive the last two years, particularly when two-time conference back of the year Josh Heiman touched the ball.
The Wolves’ offense will have a new look with Heiman and other key weapons out of the lineup, but Gaulke is a threat to run and senior Blaise Lah figures to anchor the backfield.
Lah, an all-conference performer last year, ran for 422 yards as a junior.
He’ll figure strongly into a backfield that’s likely also to include sophomore Eli Conaway and Dalton Schreffler, and perhaps senior Thomas Montana.
Lamppa said Ely’s strength sits “with probably our backfield and our two interior guys on defense and the linebackers.”
Lah is one of the Wolves’ top returning defenders. At linebacker, he recorded 86 tackles - third best on the team.
He, Montana and Conaway provide a reliable linebacker contingent, while the Wolves have size up front with 300-pound Jasiah Wigdahl, a starter in 2016, leading the defensive line. Fellow junior Collen Seliskar figures to add more size, strength and experience to the defensive line.
Gaulke and Schreffler are among the key personnel in the defensive secondary.
Lamppa is assembling the rest of his offense, with Motnana, junior Alex Motes and sophomore Josh Larson in the mix at end.
Wigdahl and Seliskar start at tackles while the Wolves may turn to a freshman - 210-pounder Lane Anderson - to start at center.
Ely has only 21 players in grades 9-12, and a smaller number will suit up for the season opener against an Ogilvie team that went 5-4 last year.
“I hope we’re competitive,” said Lamppa. “That’s all I can ask for. We can’t turn the ball over. We can’t have mistakes, that type of thing.”
Ely figures to get a boost later in the season, when Matt Gerzin returns to the lineup. The senior won all-conference honors last fall while rushing for 591 yards and amassing over 80 tackles.
Northwoods, last year’s section runner-up, and Cook County appear to be the teams to beat in Section 7 9-Man. The Wolves play both teams during the eight-game regular season slate.

2017 Ely Timberwolves
Football Schedule

Thursday: Ogilvie, 6 p.m.
Sept. 8: Northeast Range
Sept. 15: at Lake of the
Sept. 22: at South Ridge
Sept. 29: Mt. Iron-Buhl
Oct. 6: at Cook County
Oct. 13: at Silver Bay
Oct. 18: Northwoods
Game time 7 p.m. unless noted