Game of the Week -- Younger Ellis' new workhorse
By CONOR NICHOLL
ELLIS -- Ellis High School junior quarterback Sean Lee and senior running back Landon Younger's seasons have each changed significantly in the last month. Lee transferred from Hays High School last spring and started the fall as a running back. Lee had one rush for two yards in a season-opening loss to La Crosse, suffered a concussion and missed Week 2.
Younger started the fall with six carries for 21 yards versus La Crosse and seven carries for 101 yards and a score against Plainville.
Before the Week 3 contest against Ellinwood, coach Butch Hayes moved Lee to quarterback and switched junior Eli Lohrmeyer to fullback. Then, Younger became a workhorse and finished with 28 carries for a school-record 277 yards and five TDs in a 36-16 victory.
Since then, Younger has carried the ball 20, 13 and 24 times.
Overall, Younger now has 98 carries for 589 yards and seven scores -- all team-bests.
"I honestly like it, as long as everybody is doing what they need to be doing, hitting the holes that we need to be hitting, because it has worked," Younger said of being a workhorse back. "We have got four-plus yards a carry, sometimes five, Ellinwood nine, I think. When that happens, our offense just starts to click, it opens up our pass plays, or perimeter plays and everybody is rolling when we do that."
Ellis (2-4, 1-0) plays host to St. Francis (2-3, 0-2) in a 7 p.m. Class 2-1A, District 7 contest Friday. Lee, in his first time ever playing quarterback, has completed 12 of 41 passes for 164 yards with a touchdown against four interceptions.
"Natural leader from that position, plays with a lot of confidence," Hayes said.
The 6-foot, 180-pound Lee is a running threat, while the 6-3, 195-pound Lohrmeyer is a similar size to many defensive ends and is a solid blocker.
Lee has rushed 35 times for 342 yards and three TDs. As opponents have keyed on Younger the last two games, Lee has rushed effectively out of Ellis' zone-read pistol.
"Sean is a faster kid than Eli," Younger said. "When you know Sean can run, you have our read plays now. He can run or pass and I think that everybody is more confident with that."
He had 10 carries for 151 yards and a TD two weeks ago, and 16 carries for 161 yards and a score last week.
"It's nice playing here," Lee said. "I love my them all. They are a bunch of good guys."
Lee has had trouble with cramps, including last week in a 13-6 victory against Leoti-Wichita County.
"It's a deal of getting hydrated throughout the week and last week, I am not going to lie, I didn't do a very good job of that," Lee said.
Freshman Easton Smith has played in four games and has completed 5 of 14 passes for 77 yards, and rushed twice for 20 yards. It's extremely rare for a freshman to see that much time at quarterback.
Among Kansas 11-man freshmen, Smith is one of three with more than three passes attempted, according to MaxPreps. On Friday, Smith had some trouble in the red zone and narrowly missed a first down on a run.
"We would throw on first down and then run on second and then we would be forced to throw on our next two plays to try to get it in," Younger said. "We just had some bad throws or dropped passes. We weren't making the plays."
In the backfield, Younger has also supplemented the load without junior Jared Pfeifer, a speedy player who was enjoying a great season defensively. Pfeifer suffered a foot injury several weeks ago and could play Friday.
Hayes wants Younger to improve on his blocking and block as hard as he carries the ball, but has been pleased with the production.
"Landon has done great," Hayes said. "He runs the ball hard."