Ellis football escapes with win
By Brian Pitts
Last season North Davie and South Davie broke the Ellis football team in half like a twig. The scores against South were 40-0 and 42-8; the loss to North was 38-0.
But that was then. Here’s the now: The Jaguars escaped 8-6 at South on Feb. 25 in the season opener for both teams, giving Ellis bragging rights over the Tigers for the first time since 2017.
This was the start of four-game seasons for the three Davie County middle schools and the two schools from Yadkin County (Forbush and Starmount).
For the Jaguars, it was an exhilarating moment after going through a brutal stretch in 2018-19 (1-10 record, including 1-6 in 2019). It was a painful loss for the Tigers, who lost three fumbles.
“I was tickled for Joe (Brunelli),” Ellis assistant coach Mike Dinkins said of the second-year head coach.
The Tigers led most of the game, although the lead was obviously never out of reach. In the first quarter, they went ahead 6-0 on a 7-yard run by Kobe Thompson.
In the third quarter, Ellis moved the ball inside of South’s 15, but it ultimately turned it over on downs. The small victory for Ellis at that point was it left South with terrible field position. It was fourth-and-12 at the 3 when South coach Brent Wall decided to take a safety instead of punting from South’s end zone. That meant Ellis was within 6-2 when the third quarter ended.
South was still in control of things until it fumbled at its 42. Jackson Powers recovered for Ellis. (That’s a name that would play a huge role in the outcome shortly thereafter.)
Ellis pushed the ball to the South 22 when it faced fourth-and-8. Brunelli called timeout. In one magic moment, the Jaguars transformed defeat into victory. Quarterback Ethan Driver connected with tight end Powers for a 22-yard touchdown to give Ellis the 8-6 lead.
“They had a small corner and Powers is about 6-5,” Dinkins said. “Powers just went up and caught it over the guy.”
But the drama was just getting started. South quarterback Jamarius Pelotte threw deep and Leon Bradshaw made a breathtaking, 30-yard catch as he was falling down inside the Ellis 10.
“It was a heck of a catch,” Dinkins said. “It would be on ESPN Top 10 Plays. We tipped it, (Bradshaw) hit it and he caught it going to the ground. And it was a one-handed catch. (ESPN) would have shown that one several times.”
The Tigers were within sight of the goal line – and last-minute victory – but they fumbled. The third Ellis recovery of the day was made by Nathaniel Jordan. The Jaguars went to victory formation and saw the end of a five-game losing streak.
“We score if we don’t fumble because the hole was big enough to drive a truck through,” South offensive coordinator Germain Mayfield said.
Dinkins beamed at his defense for hanging tough and playing opportunistically.
“Our defense stood up because they drove it down several times,” he said. “But we had a couple sacks. Powers had a big sack to stop a drive. They had a fourth-and-4 and we got a good play from John Holcomb. A couple of turnovers made a huge difference.”
Notes: It was Ellis’ first win since 22-6 over Summit in the second game of 2019. … With such a short season, the Tigers must win out to sustain their streak of winning seasons (eight). They went 6-2 in 2019. … This was South’s first season-opening loss since 32-6 to North Davidson in 2010.
In the only middle school soccer game played so far, South Davie was blown out 8-3 at Forbush on Feb. 25. Cat Rosser had two goals, while Alicia Granadero had one. Sara Andrade had two assists.