Quarterback Bryan Rider ran for two touchdowns and passed for another, leading Ellington-Somers to a 27-14 victory over previously-unbeaten Coventry-Windham Tech Thursday morning in Coventry.
Rider rushed for a career-high 180 yards on 25 carries, and Mitch DiResta also gained more than 90 yards as the Knights' ground game wore down the Patriots' defense.
"I don't normally have that many carries, and I don't think I've ever gotten that many yards," Rider said. "Our offensive line is fantastic, I love them all. I've been playing with this same group of kids since I was about 13 years old, and our chemistry is absolutely fantastic."
The victory gave the Knights a 10-0 record heading into their first-ever appearance in the Class M state playoffs. Ellington-Somers is ranked second in the class, and will host Wolcott Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
"It's our first undefeated season ever," Knights coach Keith Tautkus said. "These guys have done a great job all season; our defense has been outstanding all year, and our offense has averaged about 30 points a game."
Ellington-Somers entered the game having outscored its opponents 304-57, but it was the Patriots who jumped out of the gate less than three minutes into the contest on a 21-yard scoring run by Jeremy Weeks and an extra point kick by Tommy Myers.
After the teams exchanged turnovers, Rider broke off a 40-yard run up the right sideline, giving Ellington-Somers the ball at the Patriots' 10-yard line. Two plays later, DiResta scored from five yards out, and Mitch Cobb's extra point kick tied the game, 7-7.
In the second quarter, after the Knights failed to convert on fourth down at the Coventry 44, the Patriots struck quickly on a 56-yard touchdown pass from Michael Fahey to Myers, who then added the conversion kick.
Jason Moustafa gave the Knights good field position by returning the ensuing kickoff 39 yards to near midfield. Rider completed a 28-yard pass to DiResta for a first down at the Coventry 26, but the Knights gained just one yard on the next three plays. On fourth-and-9, Rider found Brendan Coverdill open in the end zone for a 25-yard scoring strike, but Cobb's kick failed, leaving the Knights trailing 14-13.
After a Coventry punt, Ellington-Somers had a golden opportunity to score just before halftime, mounting an impressive drive from their own 18. A 37-yard pass from Rider to Coverdill gave the Knights first-and-goal from the 5, but the patriot defense held tough. The drive stalled when Rider's pass to Mike Cleary in the corner of the end zone fell incomplete.
On their first possession after intermission, the Knights drove to the Coventry 24, but failed to convert on fourth down and turned the ball over on downs. A 237-yard pass play from Fahey to Myers gave the Patriots a first down at the Ellington-Somers 37, but DiResta stopped the drive with an interception at the 6-yard line.
The Knights launched an impressive 94-yard drive, capped by a four-yard touchdown run up the middle by Rider that enabled Ellington-Somers to assume a 19-14 lead with 1:21 left in the third quarter.
On their next drive, the Patriots drove into Ellington-Somers territory on a 30-yard pass reception by Myers, then Fahey hooked up with Weeks on a 12-yard pass on fourth-and-8. However, Fahey was sacked two plays later and fumbled the ball, and Cobb pounced on it for the Knights with 11:11 to play.
Ellington-Somers mounted a drive that consumed more than nine minutes off the clock, highlighted by a six-yard run by Rider on fourth-and-4 to the Coventry 26. After another good stand by the Coventry defense inside the 10, the Knights came away empty when Cobb missed a 30-yard field goal attempt.
The Patriots took over at their own 20, but Sean Tynan sealed their fate by intercepting a Fahey pass and returning it to the 1 with 1:53 left. Rider plunged over the goal line on the next play, then added a two-pont conversion run to send the Knights and their fans into celebration mode.
"They're a good team with a great coach," Coventry coach Tony Bonito said.
Devin Kjellquist was a defensive standout for the Patriots, making more than a dozen tackles. "For a 140-pound inside linebacker, he's a great player. I'm proud of him and all our kids; they played valiantly," Bonito said.
Coventry qualified in seventh position in the Class L playoff rankings, and will match up against undefeated Daniel Hand of Madison.