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ELMWOOD – Elmwood-Murdock prevented East Butler from entertaining any thoughts of a playoff upset Thursday night by dominating action from the opening snap.

The Knights defeated East Butler 74-16 in the first round of the Class D-1 playoffs. Elmwood-Murdock reeled off 424 yards of offense and posted six plays of more than 25 yards. The team also picked off three passes and held East Butler to a 2-of-13 performance on third downs.

“I’m really proud of the boys,” Elmwood-Murdock head coach Lance Steffen said. “I thought our first half was one of the cleanest and best halves of football we’ve played all year. They prepared with a lot of energy this week and they did everything well that they were asked to do tonight. I’m very happy with how things went.”

Third-seeded Elmwood-Murdock (8-1) relied on its size and experience up front to control the line of scrimmage. The Knights entered the game with five players weighing more than 200 pounds and multiple upperclassmen on the line. The 14th-seeded Tigers (4-5) had just four seniors on the roster and no one weighing more than 225 pounds.

“We thought that we had the players who could dominate in the trenches, and our linemen did a great job of doing that tonight,” Steffen said. “We felt we could do some stuff up front that would create some running lanes, and our guys did a really nice job of taking advantage of those opportunities. It was great to see.”

Elmwood-Murdock went ahead less than 90 seconds into the game. Cade Hosier returned the opening kickoff to the East Butler 16-yard line and Drake Spohr capped the drive with a touchdown run.

The Tigers moved the football down to the 19-yard line on their opening drive, but a holding call on fourth down kept the series from continuing. Spohr broke several tackles on a 53-yard touchdown run two plays later, and Elmwood-Murdock went ahead 20-0 after a 26-yard pass from Spohr to Noah Willey.

The Knights increased the gap to 26-0 when Spohr faked an inside handoff and sprinted 69 yards for a score at the 11:23 mark of the second quarter. Willey set up a short touchdown series when he returned an interception from midfield down to the 1-yard line, and Noah Arent hauled in a wide-open 34-yard touchdown pass from Spohr with 7:55 to go.

Sam Behrends ended East Butler’s next series with a sack on fourth down. The Knights took advantage of the opportunity with a five-play drive that ended with a nine-yard run from Arent. Willey preserved the first-half shutout when he intercepted an East Butler pass in the end zone.

E-M increased the lead to 54-0 after Arent returned an interception 30 yards to pay dirt. East Butler got on the scoreboard when Wade Wright posted a short touchdown run with 6:05 to go in the quarter.

Elmwood-Murdock’s starting unit left the game after Spohr made it 60-8 on a 27-yard touchdown scamper. East Butler ended its scoring on the next drive on Wright’s 55-yard run, but fans were able to see two more E-M trips to the end zone. Levi Offner bounced off a pair of tacklers on a 39-yard touchdown catch with 8:07 left, and Reid Fletcher scrambled in from six yards out with 5:26 remaining.

Spohr led all players with 210 yards and five touchdowns on 12 carries. Jared Drake gained 33 yards on the ground, Offner collected 26 yards and Hosier had 23 yards. Arent, Fletcher and Jaxson Spellman combined for the remaining 22 yards.

Spohr completed three passes for 71 yards and Fletcher had one 39-yard pass. Willey caught two passes for 37 yards, Arent had one 34-yard reception and Offner made one 39-yard catch.

Drake guided Elmwood-Murdock’s defense with ten solo and five assisted tackles. He made four stops behind the line of scrimmage. Spohr posted seven solo and four assisted tackles, Arent collected four solo and two assisted stops and Willey made four solo plays.

Behrends registered three solo tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Tyler Marlatt generated two solo and four assisted tackles and Hosier added two solo plays. Willey picked off two passes, Arent made one interception and Hugo van Dijk recovered one fumble.

Steffen said the Knights were excited about advancing in the playoffs. Elmwood-Murdock moved into the second round for the first time since 2011. E-M defeated Humboldt-Table Rock-Steinauer 14-6 that year before falling 44-12 to Tri County.

“I’m a history teacher, so history is something that’s very important to me,” Steffen said. “Tonight was the first time since 2011 that we’ve won a playoff game, and that’s a big deal. The guys were aware of that and they wanted to make sure we got that accomplished. It’s a big deal to all of us.

“When we started the game we wanted to be one of 16 teams left after tonight. Now the goal is to be one of eight teams left. We’re going to work as hard as we can over the next couple of days to prepare and try to reach that goal.”

Elmwood-Murdock will travel to Tri County for the second round at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6. Eleventh-seeded Tri County (6-3) upset sixth-seeded Southern 40-12 on Thursday night. Southern (6-3) had defeated TCHS 22-18 in the final week of the regular season but the Trojans dominated the rematch.

The winner of the second-round game will play either second-seeded Bruning-Davenport-Shickley (9-0) or seventh-seeded Cross County (5-4) on Tuesday, Nov. 12.

East Butler                  0   0  8   8 – 16

Elmwood-Murdock    20 26 8 20 – 74

Scoring Summary

1st Quarter

EM – Spohr 7 run (run no good), 10:34

EM – Spohr 53 run (pass no good), 5:06

EM – Willey 26 pass from Spohr (Drake run), 0:40

2nd Quarter

EM – Spohr 69 run (run no good), 11:23

EM – Spohr 1 run (Spohr run), 10:04

EM – Arent 34 pass from Spohr (pass no good), 7:55

EM – Arent 9 run (pass no good), 3:54

3rd Quarter

EM – Arent 30 interception return (Spohr run), 10:47

EBT – Wright 2 run (Malina run), 6:05

4th Quarter

EM – Spohr 27 run (run no good), 11:52

EBT – Wright 55 run (Brecka pass from Malina), 11:41

EM – Offner 39 pass from Fletcher (run no good), 8:07

EM – Fletcher 6 run (Offner run), 5:26

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