By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
If Brady Ayers had carried more of the rushing load for the Waterville-Elysian-Morristown football team, he’d likely hold the career rushing record.
But when it comes to scoring touchdowns, he’s now No. 1 in program history.
“We’ve had a lot of good backs,” WEM coach Jon Bakken said. “If we didn’t, he’d be way ahead, probably 6,000, maybe 7,000 yards.”
As it is, Ayers has rushed for 2,566 yards in three varsity seasons, which ranks second at WEM behind the 3,022 yards gained by Tobin Pope, who graduated in 1996.
On Friday, Ayers set the program record when he scored his 42nd touchdown; the previous record was 39 by Pope. Ayers rushed for 215 yards and four touchdowns on 21 carries in a 39-14 win over Medford.
“The biggest thing about Brady is his work ethic,” Bakken said. “It’s really paid off a few times. He’ll get stopped near the goal line, but then you’ll see him still pushing forward and moving the pile.”
Ayers has scored 38 rushing touchdowns and four receiving. He averages 6.4 yards per carry for his career.
WEM (5-1, 4-0 in conference) hosts Martin County West (4-2, 3-1) on Friday, when the Bucs can clinch the Gopher Valley 2A championship with a victory.
Change in plans
The gameplan didn’t call for Dalton Elliott to run the ball. It was until his older brother Tanner was injured that Nicollet’s sophomore quarterback started keeping the football.
By the end of the game, Elliott had amassed 452 yards of offense, with 284 yards on 37 rushing attempts and 177 yards on 9 of 17 passing. He rushed for two touchdowns and passed for two. He would have scored another but at the end of a run, he fumbled into the end zone where a teammate recovered in Nicollet’s 33-30 victory over Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton last week.
“Going into the game, we didn’t anticipate him running the ball very much,” coach Tom Murphy said. “He’s not that fast, not breakaway speed, but he runs hard.”
Elliott got a couple starts last season, and he’s started every game so far this season. His Friday rushing totals nearly matched the numbers he’d posted through the first five games: 80 carries for 274 yards and two scores. For the season, he’s completed 83 of 153 passes for 1,242 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“The amazing thing is that’s he’s only thrown one interception,” Murphy said. “That’s been huge. We’re plus-19 in turnover ratio, which has been big for us.”
Remember when 100 yards rushing used to be a measure of a good running back? Last week, the area had a few 200-yard rushers.
In addition to Elliott and Ayers, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva’s Brad Claycomb rushed 51 times for 271 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-21 nonconference victory over St. Charles.
Blue Earth Area quarterback Kysten Zierke rushed for 266 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries, with scoring runs of 84, 64 and 1 yards.
Waseca forfeits game
Waseca’s 27-26 victory over Minneapolis Washburn on Sept. 14 has turned into a forfeit because the Bluejays used an ineligible player.
According to principal Jeanne Swanson, the issue involved a transfer rule, and the player only competed in one game. That player is ineligible for the rest of the season.
Games to watch
There are four teams tied atop the Minnesota River Conference with 4-1 records. Two of those meet Friday when Watertown-Mayer plays at Tri-City United.
Blue Earth Area (6-0, 3-0), coming off the victory at St. Peter last week, can wrap up a share of its second straight South Central Conference championship Friday with a win at Fairmont (3-3, 2-1).
There are four teams with winning records in the Southern Minnesota Conference, and these are two of them. New Ulm Cathedral (4-2) plays at Red Rock Central (4-2) on Friday.