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By Kerry Rodd
Pine Knot Sports 

Janke and Panthers steamroll Polar Bears, advance to championship


November 2, 2018

The South Ridge Panthers are known as a "grind it out" football team that likes to wear opponents down. Saturday night the Panthers followed that recipe to perfection on their way to a 41-6 win over the Floodwood Polar Bears.

"We watched Floodwood, and they can be a physical team," said Panthers coach Brent Johnson. "Our goal each game is to pound the ball at you and wear you down, and that worked out pretty good for us against Floodwood."

It also doesn't hurt having backs that can run the football behind a tough offensive line. To add insult to injury, having one of the top backs in the area in Joe Janke is just not fair. On Saturday Janke slashed the Polar Bear defense to the tune of 280 rushing yards on 25 carries as well as five touchdowns. Janke is the leading rusher in the state, and now has more than 2,000 yards this season. He is also one of only 17 running backs in state history to rush for more than 5,000 yards in a career.

"What can you say about Joe - every game is like that for him," Johnson said. "He has just been outstanding all season. He gets a lot of carries, but he can handle it too. It's also nice to have a little depth to take some of the pressure off him and to give him a breather once in a while."

Elias Tuominen, another senior running back for the Panthers, added 25 yards on the ground, but was singled out for his blocking, which allowed Janke to break through the line to the next level.

"Tuominen did a great job with his lead blocks on Saturday," Johnson said. "Floodwood has the type of team that their record is deceiving. They are physical and Elias (Tuominen) had their linebackers backpedaling, which opened it up for Janke."

Janke scored the first touchdown of the game on the first possession for the Panthers when he burst down the right side for a 35-yard touchdown gallop, making it 8-0 after he also added the conversion run with 10:51 remaining in the first quarter.

The game stood 8-0 for the remainder of the first quarter until the Panther line started to take control, allowing Janke to punch out huge chunks of real estate, culminating in a 3-yard touchdown run with 10:49 left in the first half. Tuominen added the conversion running, making it 16-0.

Before the halftime horn sounded, the Panthers added another 1-yard run by Janke and a 13-yard touchdown run by Janke to push the lead to 32-0 at intermission. Janke added a conversion run on one of those runs and Matt Clark ran the conversion in for the final touchdown of the half.

With 8:32 left in the third quarter, Janke tacked on his final touchdown of the game on a 34-yard touchdown dash, making it 38-0. However, Janke also lined up and booted a 30-yard field goal late in the third quarter, making it 41-0 in favor of the Panthers.

Floodwood broke through on the scoreboard with just 4:40 to play, when quarterback Isaac Rohde found lanky receiver Jeffrey Palmer in the left corner of the end zone, to make the final score 41-6.

"Our ultimate goal is to become the section champions, and that has not changed," explained Johnson. "It should be a very good game when we play Cromwell-Wright for the championship. It will be an interesting matchup of size against speed."

For the game, the Panthers rolled up 383 yards of total offense, of which 360 were on the ground, compared to 178 yards of total offense for the Polar Bears, who wrap up their season with a 6-4 record.

South Ridge and Cromwell-Wright will play for the Section 5 nine-man title Saturday night at 7:15 p.m. in Esko.


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