South Ridge blanks Wolves; Goal line stand, subsequent Panthers score shifts momentum

by Tom Coombe -

One yard may have been all the difference Sept. 21 at Ely School Stadium.
The Timberwolves were driving for a potential go-ahead score late in the first half when South Ridge stopped Ely quarterback Bryce Longwell just shy of paydirt on a fourth-and-goal sneak.
South Ridge responded with a backbreaking 99-yard drive that ended with a touchdown as time expired, and the visiting Panthers went on to a 29-0 victory in 9-man football action.
Ely fell to 2-2 but had unbeaten South Ridge (4-0) in trouble late in the first half.
The Panthers stiffened at the goal line, however, and responded with a march of their own that deflated the upset-minded Wolves.
“A big momentum switch was having the ball first and goal before halftime down 7-0,” said Ely Head Coach Cory Lassi.
“We didn’t take advantage of a great opportunity that would have possibly put us ahead going in to halftime. If we want to be in football games, we can’t let opportunities slip away like that. It was a huge change in momentum.”
The Wolves never got back on track in the second half, thanks in large part to a good-sized, bruising South Ridge team that limited Ely’s offensive opportunities.
The visitors took away Ely’s ground game, holding senior Nick Mattila to only 23 yards, and the Wolves managed just 145 yards of total offense in the contest.
“We struggled to move the ball against a very physical South Ridge team,” said Lassi.
The Panthers were also deliberate on offense, eating up more than seven minutes of clock on an opening drive that resulted in a 15-yard touchdown run by Joe Janke, who finished with over 100 yards on the ground and three scores.
South Ridge also showed it could move the ball quickly late in the half.
After Longwell was stuffed at the goal line, South Ridge quarterback Riley Kinsley went to work, directing an aerial attack that resulted in a three-yard scoring pass to Connor Bushbaum to close out the first half.
Ely’s Jasiah Wigdahl, who had earlier blocked a field goal attempt, also blocked the extra point but the damage was done.
Janke had scoring runs of six yards in both the third and fourth quarters and South Ridge played keep away in the second half.
Longwell went five-for-11 for 66 yards through the air, including a long completion to junior end Josh Larsen.
On defense, Finn Liesching led the way with 14 tackles, while Collen Seliskar and Dalton Schreffler both had a hand in a dozen tackles.
The Wolves are in the midst of a rugged stretch of their schedule and face another difficult test Saturday, when they play on the brand-new artificial turf field at Mt. Iron against Mt. Iron-Buhl (3-1).
Unbeaten Cook County visits Ely on Friday, Oct. 5, and the Wolves host Silver Bay Oct. 12 in the Fall Homecoming game.