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Eight turnovers weigh down Panthers

There's an old coaching adage that says "It's not where you begin a season, it's where you end it."

The St. Croix Central football team is leaning heavily on that philosophy after a discouraging 27-21 loss at Baldwin-Woodville in the 2013 season opener last Friday.

The Panthers turned the ball over an alarming eight times in the game. Central coach Tony DiSalvo looked to the bright side by seeing that the Panthers were still in contention to win the game in the second half despite all the mistakes.

"There are no moral victories," DiSalvo said. "We'll have some inconsistency with the young kids. They're hungry and they want to get better."

The Panthers were able to contend because their defense forced four turnovers, turning two of them into immediate touchdowns.

Central got the only touchdown of the first quarter when Tony Berg scooped up a B-W fumble on an option play, carrying it 65 yards for the touchdown.

B-W then took advantage of the Panthers' inexperience to score three straight touchdowns in the second quarter, building a 21-7 lead. Central's pass defense showed its inexperience and was picked on by the Blackhawks, who threw for 169 yards in the game.

The Panthers drew themselves back within a touchdown with 1:41 remaining in the first half when sophomore linebacker Cody Gostovich intercepted a pass, returning it 37 yards for the score.

In the second half the Panthers began to settle down behind sophomore quarterback Kyle Larson. The Panthers drove for the tying touchdown in the third quarter, with Larson flinging a 15-yard scoring pass to Ryan Gulich. The game was tied 21-21 with 4:50 left in the third quarter.

The Panthers did continue to have some success moving the ball. They were stopped on a fourth-and-one late in the fourth quarter. B-W quickly drove down for the go-ahead score, on an 8-yard run by Joe Nawrocki with 2:48 left on the clock.

Central tried to make one more charge down the field, but one of Larson's passes was intercepted to end the threat.

DiSalvo said the team can't lose focus on the rest of the season because of one loss. He said there is no reason for finger-pointing because everyone had a hand in the loss.

"It's not one thing the offense or defense or special teams did. We've got to clean up as many things as we can," DiSalvo said. "We'll get better. I guarantee it. I think we'll still be in the (Dunn-St. Croix) conference hunt."

The Panthers get to play their first home game this Friday, with Barron as the opponent. Barron suffered a 22-0 loss to Prescott in its season opener. The Panthers will have their hands full in trying to corral Barron quarterback Josh Balts, who passed for 231 yards and ran for 109 yards in the loss to Prescott.

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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