MAPLE — Northwestern football coach Jovin Kroll has a nice view of Lake Superior from his third-floor office window, but the morning of Friday, Nov. 5, 2011, he sure didn’t like what he saw.
Northwestern has a mini golf course on its campus, useful for phy ed, and all the flags were bent over and whipping in the wind.
“I was sick to my stomach when I saw it,” Kroll said. “I knew we had to be balanced to beat Ellsworth, but with that wind, I knew that was going to be hard to do.”
To beat Ellsworth, a team needs a lot to go right, and after Northwestern scored a touchdown on its opening drive, that was about all that did go right for the Tigers as Ellsworth erupted for a 54-13 Division 4 Level 3 playoff victory before a near-capacity crowd that enjoyed a starting game time temperature of 52 degrees, really mild for an early November night.
Max Grand, a Minnesota Gophers football preferred walk-on, rushed 18 times for 211 yards and a touchdown, Ashten Quade had four carries for 97 yards and another score and quarterback Jack Janke added five carries for 73 yards and four touchdowns. Grand and Quade are both state track relay champions and it showed.
“We knew they were fast when we looked at Ellsworth on film, but when you see it in person, it’s something completely different,” Kroll said. “We tried to give our guys some help on the edges, and we knew we needed to gang tackle, but they have some exceptional athletes.
“That No. 34 (Quade) has scored on like 23 of his 71 touches this year, and Grand is going to the University of Minnesota. They’ve been unstoppable with their jets.”
Jets? Ellsworth must apparently be home to an air base.
Ellsworth coach Rob Heller said Northwestern was big and physical but speed kills.
“Yeah, it does,” he said. “Our speed is hard to match up with. I hate to keep coming back to that, but our offense is actually our best defense.”
Ellsworth’s punter would have been the loneliest guy this fall except for one thing: it’s Janke, the quarterback. He is one of about a handful of Panthers looking at playing college football starting next fall.
“We’ve got some guys who will be busy on Saturdays,” he said.
Senior Austin Schlies rushed 23 times for 137 yards for Northwestern and senior Greg Ohman rushed 13 times for 51 yards and a touchdown in his first game back from injury for the Tigers.
If top-seeded Northwestern (11-1) had won, it would have been the first time the Tigers advanced to the state semifinals since 2009. Ellsworth (11-0) was seeded second but ranked second in the state coaches’ poll, with Northwestern fifth.
Ellsworth also went undefeated last year and defeated Northwestern in the final game of the season, when a regional “pod” system was used due to a season shortened by COVID-19.
“I thought we were going to be in for a four-quarter dogfight, but we just got behind the chains too often,” Kroll said. “It started just how we wanted it to, but their speed is just incredible. I thought coming into this game we had gotten a lot better, but obviously, they have, too.”
Junior quarterback Luke Sedin was 10-for-21 passing for 91 yards and a 21-yard TD pass to C.J. Thompson, one of 17 seniors the Tigers will sorely miss.
“Ellsworth is tough — super fast. That 33 (Grand) and 34 (Quade), they’re quick,” Sedin said. “We could have used a turnover, but we never got one. Throwing against the wind was tough but it was nice going with it because you could throw it up there and let the receiver go get it.
“We’ve got a good squad coming back next year, but we’ll miss our seniors, just their great leadership. They’re fun to be with, just very athletic and just a great squad.”
Ellsworth also has a great squad, and in a couple weeks, the Panthers might be calling themselves state champions. That certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone in attendance Friday, not Northwestern, which Kroll said is the smallest school in Wisconsin Division 4.
Besides the speed guys on the outside, Ellsworth has some scrappers up front, which Kroll said is likely a byproduct of their state power wrestling program.
“Those guys are maulers,” Kroll said. “They know how to use their hands and fight in space.”
Kroll said this was the most dynamic team he has had in his fifth year as Tigers coach as Sedin finished the season with about 1,350 passing yards, 21 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Most of Sedin’s favorite targets are expected back next year.
“All in all, I’m really proud of what our kids accomplished,” Kroll said. “We got another conference title and 11-0 start. If the kids keep working hard, one of these years, they’ll break through. I know it.”
NW — Greg Ohman 3 run (Dawson Kriske kick)
E — Jack Janke 1 run (Ashten Quade run)
E — Janke 49 run (Quade run)
E — Janke 11 run (run failed)
E — Max Grand 2 run (Quade run)
E — Grand 18 run (Grand run)
NW — C.J. Thompson 21 pass from Luke Sedin (pass failed)
E — Quade 57 run (Grand run)
E — Janke 10 run (Ryan Matzek pass from Janke)