Wolves escape in home debut

Second-quarter drive the difference as Ely downs Lake of the Woods; Mattila runs for 187 yards in second straight victory

by Tom Coombe -

The Ely Timberwolves were behind on the scoreboard and seemingly out of gas late in the first half.
But the high school football team had enough left in its tank to put together a scoring drive that proved to be the difference in the Sept. 14 home opener; an 18-14 victory over Lake of the Woods.
Dalton Schreffler capped off a 65-yard march that took just over a minute, and the Wolves held on for dear life in a scoreless second half that included two Ely turnovers.
Ely, which won its second straight game to improve to 2-1 got a career-high 187 yards from senior Nick Mattila, who also recovered a Bears fumble late in the game to seal the win.
Yet the Wolves had highs-and-lows, starting well in both halves before their lack of depth began to take its toll.
“This is a problem that we’re starting to see now,” said Ely Head Coach Cory Lasi. “Our lack of depth is just going to hurt us these next few weeks if we don’t figure something out. We felt like we dominated the first quarter but then in the second quarter you could see we started to get winded.”
The home crowd had barely settled in on a mild night for football when the Wolves struck first.
Lake of the Woods opted against risking a long return and instead squib-kicked.
The result was good field position for the Wolves, and Mattila went right to work.
The senior, who is in his first season of varsity football, broke away from the Bears’ defense on a 35-yard scamper as Ely jumped out to a 6-0 lead.
Ely soon got the ball back and nearly ignited the house again on a long passing play that fell incomplete.
It was just a temporary setback, as junior Nate Nettifee finished off the drive with a six-yard touchdown run.
The conversion failed but Ely was out to a 12-0 lead.
Lake of the Woods, which lost badly the last two times it met the Wolves, showed that it was much improved in 2018.
The Bears seized momentum back in the second quarter with their own running game.
LOW started to win the battles at the line of scrimmage, opening holes for back Isaiah Mason, who had touchdown runs of 30 and 25 yards as the visitors took a 14-12 lead with under two minutes left in the half.
The advantage was brief, as senior Austin Meskill fell on another squib kick and the Ely offense took care of the rest.
Mattila broke off another long run down the right sideline, setting the stage for Schreffler’s 21-yard sprint to paydirt with under a minute left in the half.
“We didn’t get anything on the return, bu what we did was we went to no huddle to catch them off guard a bit and pick up the tempo, and it worked,” said Lassi.
Ely marched the ball down field to start the second half, but its attempt to extend the lead was cut short by a fumble.
The Wolves also fumbled away another possession in the second half, and LOW got to the Ely 40 on one march before Bryce Longwell batted down a fourth-down pass to end the possession.
Ely averted disaster in the fourth, when a Mattila fumble was recovered by the Wolves near their own 25 yard line.
“The one part that’s concerning is we almost beat ourselves,” said Lassi. “We had three big fumbles and lost two of them. We spent a lot of time this week on ball security but we still fumbled the ball. We were controlling it. We were driving it. It was just one of those things where mistakes killed us.”
Ely’s defense contained the Bears in the second half, with lineman Collen Seliskar and Mattila in on 14 tackles apiece.
The Wolves closed out their two-game homestand against unbeaten South Ridge Friday, kicking off a stretch that also includes battles with Mt. Iron-Buhl (2-1) and section favorite Cook County (3-0).
“These next three weeks we face some very good football teams,” said Lassi. “We can’t have some of the mistakes we’ve been having if we want to compete.”