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Mondovi's experience overpowers St. Croix Central football team

St. Croix Central quarterback Kyle Larson (left) tries to duck under the leaping tackle attempt by Mondovi linebacker Dustin Nelson during Friday's game. (Photo by Brian Binkowski)

Mondovi's football team is well stocked with seniors who've been playing varsity ball for three years. The St. Croix Central football team looked like a team playing numerous juniors and sophomores when the two teams met in Mondovi last Friday.

The Panthers weren't able to match Mondovi's physicality, losing to the Buffaloes 36-21.

At times in the game, Central looked competitive with Mondovi. But when Mondovi needed yards, it stuck the ball in the hands of fullback Brett Vetterkind and he plowed behind the large Mondovi offensive line. Vetterkind finished the game with 196 yards rushing.

The first drive of the game was a good example of the Panthers' issues. The Panthers used a 45-yard run from Trent Smith to drive downfield, but the drive died at Mondovi's 1-yard line. Mondovi then took the ball and drove the length of the field, scoring on a 48-yard short pass where the receiver was able to run down the sideline untouched.

"If it could go wrong in the first half, it did," said Central coach Tony DiSalvo.

By halftime, the Panthers trailed 22-0.

Mondovi scored right away in the third quarter to make the lead 28-0. The Panthers then took advantage of two Mondovi turnovers. Central senior Brandon Smith recovered a fumbled punt and returned it to the Mondovi 1-yard line, where Trent Smith blasted in for the first Panther touchdown.

Mondovi fumbled again at the start of its next possession and the Panthers recovered. Jason Matteson, who came in at quarterback for the second half, found Ryan Gulich in the left corner of the end zone for a 19-yard score.

The Buffaloes went back to their power game to score again early in the fourth quarter, making the score 28-14. Central got its final touchdown when Matteson connected with Gulich on a strike down the middle at the goal line from 20 yards out.

Matteson completed 8-16 passes in the second half. Kyle Larson started at quarterback for the Panthers and completed 5-13 passes. DiSalvo said the coaches have to rebuild Larson's confidence after a difficult half on Friday. He said Larson wasn't alone as the team goes through some growing pains.

"It's the culmination of inexperience and a lot of kids learning on the fly," DiSalvo said.

There were positive signs from the game. Trent Smith rushed for 122 yards and Matteson passed for 107 yards in a half. Cody Gostovich led the Panther defense with 19 tackles, with Trent Smith and Shiloh Goodwin each recorded 11 tackles.

DiSalvo said the Panthers still have a strong chance of reaching the WIAA playoffs and this Friday's game will weigh heavily on the Panthers' chances. The Panthers play at Boyceville. Central is 1-1 in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference while Boyceville is 0-1.

"We need to put four good quarters together, we haven't done that yet this season," 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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