Aurora Christian can't slow Lena-Winslow's ground game

 
By Scott Walsh
Daily Herald Correspondent

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, fancy about the Lena-Winslow Panthers on the football field. In fact, they're a completely one dimensional football team.

But they are very, very good at the one thing they do: running the football. In fact, when you are as good at doing that as the Panthers are, there is little reason to do anything else.

Lena-Winslow, from the northwest corner of the state, just a few miles south of the Wisconsin border and roughly midway between Rockford and Iowa, ran at, around, over and between Aurora Christian in their 57-14 win in the Class 1A quarterfinal game Saturday afternoon in Aurora. They advance to play Forreston next weekend.

It wouldn't be too surprising if they ran to the game.

"(Isaiah Bruce) and (Sean Ormiston) are really good players," said Eagles coach Dave Beebe. "They just beat us up front, on both sides of the ball. You're just not going to win when you play like that. Their lines are quick and aggressive, and they're very good at what they do. We wanted to block better and defend better, but tonight, the better team definitely won."

For the Panthers (11-1), a diversified attack means multiple runners topping the 100-yard mark. Saturday, the Panthers powered their way to 406 yards on the ground. Junior running back Ormiston picked up 164 yards on 24 carries. His 6-1, 247-pound classmate Bruce battered his way another 118 yards on 16 carries. Right behind Bruce was Keegan Gyland, a senior who added 113 yards on just eight carries. Ormiston and Gyland each scored a pair of touchdowns, while Bruce and Ronnell Valentine had one apiece.

Panthers quarterback Cade Benson, a 5-10 senior, ran for a TD as well. Oh, and to get his passing line out of the way, here it is: 1 for 1, 31 yards. That's it: one pass, completed.

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But when you run the ball the way Lena-Winslow does, why throw the ball?

For Aurora Christian (8-4), sophomore quarterback Ethan Hampton just never found his groove, and Beebe admitted that the Panthers running game prompted him to take to the air a little sooner and a little more aggressively than normal. Hampton wound up completing 21 of 46 for 272 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

Senior wide receiver Trey Madsen was Hampton's primary target, catching nine passes for 168 yards.

The Eagles' ground game, however, was another matter. Forced to the air early, they only ran the ball 10 times, and netted minus-23 yards. They also turned the ball over four times.

After the teams traded punts to open the game, Hampton coughed the ball up on a sack by the Panthers' Ian Kuehl at his own 24. Five plays later Bruce went around end from 13 yards out. Benson found Parker Magee for the two-point conversion and Lena-Winslow led 8-0.

Madsen returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a quick strike to pull the Eagles within one, but Benson then cut loose the horses and mounted an 8-play, 56-yard drive that culminated in a 17-yard scoring run by Ormiston to make it 15-7 after one.

Bruce took over on the Panthers' initial possession of the second stanza, carrying it 10 times in 12 plays and capping a 70-yard march with a 4-yard scamper around left end to make it 22-7.

The Eagles struck right back when Hampton hit Madsen on a perfect post pattern for a 17-yard scoring strike midway through the quarter. Madsen added the point after to pull Aurora Christian with eight at 22-14, but from that point on it was all Lena-Winslow and its vaunted running game.

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