E-S football closes out 2014 season with loss to Loyal in Level 1 playoff game
by Beth Kraft
In some ways, the odds were in Eleva-Strum’s favor heading into postseason play last week. The Cardinal football team was riding the high of earning the distinction of Dairyland Conference co-champs with its sixth-straight win the previous week, hadn’t lost at home all season, and was, at least statistically, favored to win its Level 1 game with a three seed against Loyal’s No. 6 ranking. But the Cardinals hadn’t played in the postseason since 2008, and unfortunately that inexperience proved itself the most dominant factor as E-S bowed out of the playoffs with a 28-6 loss to the Greyhounds on Friday night, Oct. 24.
The frustrations started early for the home squad, essentially beginning with the game’s opening kickoff when the Cards botched the catch. Shortly after, with Loyal taking possession of the ball on the E-S 30-yard line, the visitors had a 7-0 lead. Loyal tacked on its second touchdown for a 14-0 advantage with 8:54 remaining in the first half while the Cardinals’ normally-stout defense struggled at times with blocking assignments and missed tackles.
E-S had its best chance of the half to score toward the end of the second quarter on a pair of pass attempts to sophomore Mathew Higley either in or near the end zone, but the second pass was intercepted to end the threat.
To start off the third quarter, Loyal added insult to injury as Logan Genteman found a huge hole in the E-S defense for a 69-yard scamper across the goal line and the 21-0 lead. Desperate to answer back, the Cards’ rushing corps made some notable gains with big yards from senior Gage Everson and junior Coy Christianson before a costly fumble with 7:37 left in the period kept E-S scoreless.
With the Greyhounds threatening to add to their already-daunting total the E-S defense came to life and pushed them back from near to the goal line, taking over on downs with about 2:30 left in the third. Again the Cardinals mounted a promising offensive effort only to be disappointed again when a botched pitch play in the backfield sent the football flying through the air and into the hands of Loyal’s Stetson Rueth for the 23-yard score and 28-point lead to close out the quarter.
E-S finally put some points on the board in the fourth as the Cardinals’ running game continued to find its footing, allowing senior quarterback Kelton Olson to get close enough to lean across the goal line for a two-yard touchdown run. But with just over five minutes left to go in the game, it was too little too late for a home squad that simply couldn’t convert enough of its opportunities on offense.
Loyal amassed an impressive 324 yards on the ground for the game to Eleva-Strum’s 233, led by Everson with 114 yards on 14 carries and Christianson with 63 yards on 16 attempts. Everson also caught two passes for 22 yards while Olson went 3-for-9 in the pocket with one pick.
The Cardinals close out a memorable 2014 season at 7-3 overall.