At the start of the season the young Osceola Chieftain football team was susceptible to errors and big plays against them. That can happen when you return only one starter on offense and two on defense. Osceola has grown up a bit during the first two months of the 2018 season. Last Friday the Chieftains made the breaks and created four Ellsworth Panther turnovers and hit a few big plays of their own to walk away with a 28-16 homecoming win.
Osceola moves to a fifth place tie in the Middle Border conference with a 2-4 record (3-5 overall). St. Croix Central leads the pack with a 6-0 mark followed by Somerset at 5-1. The top two teams will square off in the MBC finale this Friday at Central. Osceola will wrap up conference play with a game in New Richmond.
Both Osceola and Ellsworth found success through the airways despite a daylong drizzle and mist that engulfed Robert W. Vesperman field. Ellsworth put the ball in the air 42 times connecting on 22 for a total of 232 yards. The drawback to the Panthers aerial circus was three interceptions by an alert Chieftain defense. Logan Johnson intercepted two balls on deflections for the Chieftains and Matt Germain gathered the other.
“Our secondary was challenged but I thought we kept improving as the game went on,” Osceola coach Scott Newton said. “We left our corners on an island most of the night. #5 (Logan Benson) is an all-conference type player. We were competing all night.”
Osceola quarterback Aaron Schmidt did not put the ball in the air often but when he did it was extremely effective. Schmidt was 5-of-7 through the air for 173 yards and three touchdowns. Tray Scott had a huge night from his wide receiver spot as he collected three passes for 152 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Logan Clark caught two of Schmidt’s passes good for 21 yards with one of his catches hitting pay dirt.
“Offensively we managed huge completions,” Newton said. “Aaron Schmidt continues to improve every week. Tray Scott had a very nice game receiving, especially his third catch going up between two defenders.”
The first big offensive play of the game came with 6:43 left in the opening quarter. Scott hauled in a short pass at midfield and cut to the middle of the field and outraced the Ellsworth defenders for the first score of the game. The play covered 56 yards. Exactly one quarter later it was déjà vu.
At 6:53 of the second quarter, Schmidt hit Scott on a 72 yard pitch and catch and with a pair of Gavin Peterson PATs the Chieftains had built a 14-0 lead.
In between Osceola touchdowns the Chieftain defense came up big. With Ellsworth one yard from the Osceola end zone Panther quarterback Mason Anderson could not handle the slippery pigskin and the ball squirted to the turf. Linebacker Nick Carlson alertly pounced on the prey and the Osceola offense was back on the field.
Ellsworth got back into the hunt with a third quarter touchdown on a 17 yard run by Jared Lansing. After a two-point conversion the Osceola lead was down to 14-8. The Chieftains then responded to the Panther score like good teams do. Osceola went on its most sustained drive of the game covering 65 yards in seven plays with Schmidt hitting Clark with his third TD pass of the game to put the Chieftains up 21-8.
Osceola took command after Germain’s interception and return put the Chieftains on the Ellsworth 3-yard line. It took the Chieftains three plays to cover the three yards needed but Schmidt scored on a quarterback sneak to put Osceola on top 28-8. The Panthers scored midway through the final stanza on a 6-yard pass from Anderson to Logan Benson to cut the Chieftain lead to 28-16. Johnson thwarted any hopes that Ellsworth had of a comeback with an interception with 3:49 to play and another with 1:11 to play.
“We really worked as one,” Johnson said in explaining his interceptions. “The secondary was communicating very well and flying to the ball on every play and the defensive line was able to put pressure on the quarterback resulting in him throwing three interceptions and an overall great night for the Chieftain defense.”
“I thought our defense pursued great as a team,” Newton added. “Parker Roemhild provided great edge tackling in containing their perimeter run game. #27 (Logan Melstrom) has been on a tear the past few weeks and stopping their run game was a huge priority for our defense.”
Despite the persistent mist that fell all game long the homecoming crowd was into the game and their enthusiasm helped the Chieftains to the important win.
“We had a great crowd and homecoming atmosphere,” Newton said. “We have to continue our mindset of improving every day in practice. We have a huge challenge on Friday traveling to New Richmond. The ball will be in the air and we will need to make some plays.”