BROOKVILLE — It took barely two minutes for folks watching Ell-Saline host La Crosse Friday night to realize that it would be the Cardinals advancing to the next round of the Class 1A playoffs next Friday night at Plainville.
That’s because how long it took for Ell-Saline to ring up a pair of touchdowns and end the Leopards’ season with a 56-12 rout.
In the first quarter, the Cardinals reached the La Crosse end zone five times and led 35-0 heading into the second period.
With that kind of start a running clock seemed assured. It finally did midway through the final quarter as Terry King rotated a few of his starters with every player he dressed.
“Everybody played,” King said. “We’ve got bigger and better things to do. Nick’s (Davenport) been crippled up a little bit and he made some good throws giving us the opportunity to get him out. We just feel if we stay healthy, we’ve got a lot better chance down the road.”
The Cardinals started with a bang as Davenport hit Treyton Peterson with a short out that Peterson took 59 yards for a touchdown.
A quick three-and-out got the Ell-Saline offense right back on the field and this time Luke Parks broke a 69-yard scamper on first down for a 14-0 lead with 10:04 showing on the clock.
Next it was Davenport bulldozing his way on a 36-yard run followed by Sawyer Kramer’s 20-yard dash for six. Keenan Drees capped the quarter with a 43-yard run at 3:09.
Kramer, a diminutive wide receiver/cornerback who seems to be smaller than the his 5-7, 135 listing in the program, seemed to be everywhere.
In addition to running for one score, he later caught a 52-yard bomb from Davenport, broke up two passes and make a pair of tackles on the outside to prevent big plays by La Crosse.
“I know I’m not the biggest guy out there,” Kramer said, “but I just pretend I am big — this man in front of me, I’m going to beat him.
“I think sometimes heart has a lot to do with it, so I just go out there and play as hard as I can.”
Pat Giersch, a 6-4, 225 defensive end, sustained an arm injury and made one of those early exits, and that left Joel Came to take over the job of spearheading a defense that surrendered only 185 total yards on 49 plays from scrimmage.
“We expected them to pull a lot of guards and do a lot of counter stuff,” Came said. “We knew if we followed the guards, they’d lead us right to the ball.”
Ganging up on the run, the Cardinals forced La Crosse to the air 21 times which resulted in a pair of touchdowns, but those came with the game well in hand.
“We didn’t expect them to throw that much,” Came said, “but once we got over the shock, I think we handled it well.”
While the Cardinals stifled the La Crosse offense, Ell-Saline generated 480 yards on 33 plays.
“La Crosse was definitely outmanned,” King said, “and I give a lot of credit to those kids for playing as hard as they did though. They never quit.”
La Crosse finished 2-7.