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St. Croix Central football guarding against overconfidence

St. Croix Central fullback Ryan Larson pulls out of a tackle attempt on his way to the third of his first half touchdowns against Ellsworth on Friday. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

The St. Croix Central football team has outscored its opponents 132-21 in the first three games of the 2018 season.

One of the biggest jobs now for Central coach Tony DiSalvo and his staff is guarding against overconfidence. The Panthers will play their first road game of the season this Friday when they travel to winless New Richmond. So far, the Panthers have beaten Durand (41-14), Elk Mound (49-7) and, last Friday, Ellsworth (42-0).

“This will be the best team we faced so far,” DiSalvo said of Friday’s matchup. “New Richmond has played three tough teams.”

In the few years that Central has been in the Middle Border Conference, these teams have developed something of a rivalry, with several close games. Last year Central beat the Tigers, 21-14.

Central wasn’t severely tested in last week’s win over Ellsworth. The Central defense completely smothered Ellsworth’s offense. Ellsworth didn’t record a first down in the first half and it had negative offensive yardage in the half.

Offensively, Central manhandled the Ellsworth defense. Central quarterback Austin Kopacz ran circles around the Ellsworth defense and Central fullback Ryan Larson ran over the Ellsworth defenders. Kopacz had three carries of 50 yards or more in the first half, finishing the night with 213 yards and three touchdowns in 13 carries. Larson also produced three touchdowns, finishing with 98 yards in nine attempts. Larson had touchdown runs of 29 and 22 yards that left the fans gasping after he crushed Ellsworth defensive backs who tried to get in his way.

DiSalvo said the easy results Friday didn’t mean there weren’t flaws. The offensive line is still viewed by the coaches as a work in progress.

“We missed some blocks and assignments and we’ve got to clean that up,” DiSalvo said.

Central’s offense was able to tear through the Ellsworth defense for numerous big plays. On Central’s first play from scrimmage, Kopacz broke free for a 51-yard run, with Larson scoring on the next play. Kopacz scored on a 54-yard run with four minutes left in the first quarter.

Central put the game away with its big plays in the second quarter. Larson delivered the first, a 29-yard touchdown burst that showed his raw power in leaving Ellsworth defenders strewn on the field. Larson scored again on a similar blast up the gut for 22 yards. Kopacz finished the first half eruption with a 53-yard touchdown run.

“Austin had a whale of a game,” DiSalvo said.

Dave Newman

Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.

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