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Football: Panthers ready to run

Ellsworth running back Dennis Schutz (18) makes a break for the sidelines during practice Friday at Ellsworth High School. The Panthers open the 2013 season on Aug. 23 at home against Spooner. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)

ELLSWORTH – After a 2-6 campaign in 2012, two losses in particular still bother Ellsworth head football coach Clair Austin. 

In back-to-back weeks against New Richmond and Osceola, the Panthers fell 14-7 in both games. Sitting at 2-2 before the New Richmond game, the losses piled up for Ellsworth and the team was forced to watch the postseason from the bleachers.

“It still eats at my craw a little bit,” Austin said of the close losses. 

With a new offensive coordinator and a renewed emphasis on the run game, Austin and the Panthers hope to control the clock in order to make an improvement.

Opening practice this past week, Ellsworth had the goals of four yards per play and six minutes per drive on offense.

“The idea is we’ll be a little better offensively and it’s just a matter of leaving our offense on the football field,” Austin said. “Our defense was on the football field a lot last year so we’re hoping to change that trend.”

Chad Whalen takes over at offensive coordinator, and in the first week the players have responded positively to the new philosophy.

“Everything on offense is coming through easily,” said senior guard/linebacker Adam Schuster. “There’s barely any confusion.”

Fullback Brandon Vandermarliere added, “Everyone knows most of the offense at this point.”

Running out of the wishbone, crunch and spread formations, the Panthers plan on capitalizing on their running back depth to help turn around the offense.

“Brandon Vandermarliere is at fullback and he’s tough; he’s lifted and gotten up to 190 pounds,” Austin said. “Then we have Dennis Schutz and Dan Giese, who are both pure speed. And Evan Klawitter could step in.”

The “speed kills” philosophy is also applying to the offensive line. Will Huppert and Brodey Kemmerer are Ellsworth’s biggest players at 245 and 235 pounds, respectively. 

“We’ve very aerodynamic,” Austin said of Ellsworth’s lack of size. “Our line is quick, we just have to seal our blocks. If we can get our running backs to the second level, we’re going to do some damage this year.”

Getting blockers out in a hurry is paramount to the Panthers’ success.

“Our goal is to get to that second level and get somebody on the linebackers,” said left tackle/linebacker Devrin Myers. “We should be able to break off some big runs if we do that.”

Austin said that Kyle Kurrelmeyer, who started the last three games at quarterback in 2012, could split time with junior Emery Whalen. But the goal is to have the offense running and avoiding the traps that last year’s offense fell into. Last year, the Panthers averaged 11.5 points per game over the final four games and 14.8 PPG over the course of the season.

“We got into the habit of throwing too much last year,” Austin said, “and hopefully we can have a more stable running game to help that passing game.”

Ellsworth opens the 2013 season Aug. 23 at home against Spooner.

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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