ELLSWORTH — Just by looking at the wall of purple adorning the sidelines on the opposite side of the field, the term undermanned came to mind as the Colfax football team, with 25 players suited up to face the 52-man squad of the Ellsworth Panthers in the game played August 28 in Ellsworth.
And although having twice as many players doesn’t necessarily mean you are a better team, in this case it proved true as the Vikings were shut out 42-0 for their second consecutive lopsided loss of the season.
After taking the opening kickoff to just their own 13-yard line, Colfax moved the ball to the 20 on a pass from Jared Rudi to Mitchell Kiekhafer, and picked up a first down on a Panther penalty. But Rudi was hit as he was trying to pass on the next play and the ball was picked off at the 41-yard line.
Ellsworth needed just six plays to get the ball into the endzone on a four-yard run and extra point kick for a 7-0 lead with 8:36 on the clock.
Rudi connected with Kiekhafer for an 11-yard gain to start their next possession but the Vikings were eventually forced to punt.
The Panthers used a mix of running and passing plays to move the ball from their own 47 to the Colfax 24-yard line but a fourth-down pass was broken up by Tyler Dawson and Jon Welk.
Rudi threw up another pass on first down that ended up in a Panther players hands who took it to the house and with the two-point run made it 15-0 with 4:20 left in the quarter.
Starting again at their own 13-yard line after the kickoff return, Kiekhafer rattled off a 12-yard run but again the drive stalled and Rudi punted again.
Moving into the second quarter, Ellsworth picked up five straight first downs and finally scored on a 39-yard pass play to make it 21-0.
Then on the ensuing kickoff, the Panthers caught the Vikings off guard with an onside kick and recovered the ball at the Vikings 45-yard line. Six plays later they had another score on a five-yard run and the kick made it 28-0 with 7:18 left in the half.
The Vikings put their best drive of the night together when they started at their own 35 and moved all the way to the Panthers’ five-yard line. Rudi completed a fourth and one pass to Jacob Steinke in the drive and two penalties on Ellsworth helped their cause. A pair of pass completions to Welk and Steinke made it first and goal from the five, but a running play lost two yards and a mishandled ball and two incomplete passes gave the ball back to the Panthers with 2:46 to go in the half.
Ellsworth quarterback Riley Melstrom went to work and picked the Vikings’ defense apart as he completed five passes, the final one on a fourth and eight resulting in a 26-yard score with a minute to go in the half. The kick made it 35-0 and put the clock into running time for the rest of the game.
“I was impressed with the way our players moved the ball on our long drive,” Colfax coach Mark Maloney said. “But we needed to get the ball in the endzone some how and things fell apart. Our young line couldn’t match up with Ellsworth and Rudi didn’t have a lot of time to look for a receiver.”
Colfax shut the Panthers down in the third quarter and gave up just one more score in the fourth on another pass play.
Much like the first half, the Vikings just couldn’t move the ball on the ground and as a result, their total rushing yards was a minus eight yards for the game. Rudi completed 8 of 20 passes for 87 yards with Steinke snaring three for 40 yards while Kiekhafer grabbed two for 29 yards, Austin Dressel caught two for 15 yards and Welk one for three yards.
Steinke returned four kickoffs back for 48 yards and Zach Meyer led the Vikings on the defensive side with 12 tackles while Dawson added eight.
The Panthers rushed for 172 yards and passed for 219.
“I guess some of the positives of a game like this is we didn’t have any injuries and several of our freshmen are getting some valuable playing time,” Maloney said. “We also gained a few players in the last week and when we get all of them on the field, things should improve.”
Colfax plays on the road for the third straight week as they start conference play at Spring Valley this Friday night. The Cardinals are 2-0 so far and are one of the favorites in the conference.