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Ellsworth football wins at the wire over BRF 38-33

Ellsworth running back Dennis Schutz breaks to the outside for a big game during Friday's WIAA playoff game vs. Black River Falls.2 / 5
Ellsworth all together now.3 / 5
Ellsworth running back Brandon VanderMarliere trying to stay off the ground for extra yardage.4 / 5
Ellsworth wide receiver Nick Taranto tries to pull away from two BRF defenders.5 / 5

BLACK RIVER FALLS - It wasn't just Purple Pride but Purple Perseverance which helped Ellsworth High School's football team outlast Black River Falls in a hard-played WIAA Division 4, Level 2 playoff game Friday evening.

No. 3 ranked Ellsworth advanced with a 38-33 win over the Tigers setting up next weekend's rematch with No. 4 Somerset in Level 3. Somerset downed Prescott 28-14, also on Friday. 

The momentum of the contest surged back and forth and the first half alone felt like a game unto itself with Ellsworth ahead 25-20 at the break. EHS had to deal with injuries to running back Dennis Schutz to his hand and defensive back and receiver Nick Taranto with a sprained ankle and several players had to hold down new positions to replaced injured players throughout the physical contest.

"That was a football game, a playoff football game both teams took part in tonight," Ellsworth head coach Clair Austin said. "It was hard on both sides but the fortitude of our kids and our senior leaders was amazing to help us leave here with a win."

EHS looked to take out BRF quick as Dennis Schutz scored the game's first touchdown on a 65-yard screen pass from Emery Whalen. Ellsworth got the ball back on an onside kick and capped off its scoring drive with a 20-yard Schutz field goal.

But BRF quarterback Ethan Young shredded Ellsworth's defense with the long passing game. He tossed several to receiver Matt LaFaunge which set up short-yardage touchdowns by running back Ryan Millis. Young also threw a 13-yard TD pass to sophomore wide receiver Jack Roou and the Tigers, 6-5 overall, led 20-11 Two of BRF's scores were set up by Ellsworth turnovers.

Ellsworth got the lead back before halftime with a two-yard TD run by quarerback Emery Whalen and a 10-yard scoring strike to Taranto. Whalen threw another TD pass to Taranto in the third quarter for 58 yards to put Ellsworth up 31-20. The Tigers kept it close as Millis and Roou both scored again in the second half but Ellsworth never relinquished their advantage as both Taranto's TD and Schutz's 17-yard TD run late in the fourth quarter closed things up. EHS didn't put the game away finally until Taranto recovered an onside kick, which squirted past several Ellsworth players, until it was recovered.

Whalen threw for 169 yards on 5-of-13 passing. Both Schutz and teammate Brandon VanderMarliere, playing his first game in weeks, rushed for 100 yards or better. BRF amassed 404 yards of total offense led by 276-yard passing performance by Young. Millis rushed for 128 yards.

Division 4 playoff bracket: