District race tight for Ellis
Published on -10/22/2012, 10:26 AM
By CONOR NICHOLL
ELLIS -- Ellis High School coach Butch Hayes talked with his team after a big 14-7 home district victory against Oberlin-Decatur Community last Friday. The message was simple: There is at least one more game to play -- and it's against an opponent the Railroaders know well.
On Friday, Ellis will travel to Oakley, the sixth time in the last five seasons the two Class 2-1A powers have met. Like most years, the contest will have massive playoff implications.
"We always like competing against (Oakley) every year," Hayes said. "It always seems like it's a big game between us and Oakley, and this year is not going to be any different. And they have got a great staff and we are really looking forward to it."
Oakley is currently 5-2 overall and 3-0 in Class 2-1A, District 7. Ellis stands at 4-4, 2-1, while St. Francis is 4-4, 2-2. Oberlin stands at 3-5, 1-2. St. Francis is done for the season and has a bye this Friday.
Oakley has guaranteed itself a playoff berth. The other three teams still have a chance at the postseason -- and Ellis can still earn a district title.
Ellis has earned nine consecutive playoff berths and six straight district crowns.
There are multiple scenarios where St. Francis, Oberlin, or Ellis can reach the postseason, but the likely one is: Oberlin beats Leoti-Wichita County on Friday by at least 13 points. Leoti is 1-7 and hasn't played a game within 20 points since Week 3.
That would eliminate St. Francis from consideration.
If that occurs, Ellis must beat Oakley, likely by at least three points, to qualify. If the Railers do, Ellis wins the district and Oakley takes the second spot. If the Railers lose, Oakley is the champion and Oberlin is the runner-up if the Red Devils defeat Wichita Co.
"We kind of told them the situation and said, 'We've just got to take care of next week,' " Oberlin coach Joe Dreher said.
Ellis is 3-2 in the last five meetings against Oakley, but all the contests have been decided by eight points or fewer. The last two years, Ellis won 23-15 and 27-19 in Week 9 to capture the crown. A similar situation existed two years ago when Ellis won, qualified for the playoffs and earned the district title.
On Friday, the Railers' defense forced five turnovers and stopped Oberlin twice in the final three minutes -- including once after an onside kick -- to secure the victory.
"Our backs were against the wall and we knew what we had to do both offensively and defensively was to play physical and to make plays," Hayes said. "We stressed all week that we had to make plays. This is do or die. In these types of games, the team that makes the most plays is going to come away victorious."
Senior Blake Hudson, the team's starting quarterback/defensive back and team leader, played sparingly for the second straight week because of an ankle injury. Hudson was active on the sideline and shared in the celebration, but was disappointed he couldn't play. Hudson is expected to go Friday.
"I am extremely proud of them, especially because we didn't have Blake," Hayes said. "He is our offensive and defensive leader for us, and we had kids step up tonight. We knew what it was going to take. They came out and played physical football and really did the things that we have coached all week."
Sophomore Eli Lohrmeyer played quarterback for the second straight week and finished 6 of 16 passing for 39 yards and two touchdowns against zero interceptions. The numbers don't tell the full story, though.
"He has been looking good all week in practice and put him out there. And he made plays for us that first half, and took care of the football and that's what we stressed with him," Hayes said. "Just be relaxed, make good decisions and he did."
Lohrmeyer lost probably 30 yards on drops and didn't have any turnovers. Against St. Francis, he threw for more than 100 yards, but had three interceptions.
"I think he did a heck of a job," senior running back Gage Younger said. "Really, he is a pocket passer. Not much of a scrambling type like Blake, but he threw some good balls, and he didn't throw any picks."
Lohrmeyer also executed a perfect option pitch to Younger down the right sideline for a 37-yard gain that set up the second score.
"It was really open," Younger said. "Last year, we couldn't get the pitches off right. We would always fumble it and we've worked on it a lot this year. They really didn't expect it and it worked really good for us."
In the secondary, senior Cole Pfeifer helped step up without Hudson and picked off two passes.
"Cole might not be the fastest kid or the most athletic kid, but he is always around the ball somehow," Hayes said. "He did a nice job."