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Playoff still a possibility for St. Croix Central football team

St. Croix Central halfback Trent Smith (28) breaks to the outside for good yardage in the first half of the Panthers’ loss to Spring Valley on Friday.

The playoffs are still a definite possibility for the St. Croix Central football team.

The Panthers need to win one of their final two games to make the playoffs, though winning both games would give them a more palatable opening-round opponent. If the Panthers make the playoffs, it is likely they would land in Division 4, where some of the candidates to be their opening round challenger are Ellsworth, Somerset and Prescott.

A win last Friday would have greatly helped the Panthers’ cause and for a half, they put up an excellent battle against Spring Valley. From the opening play of the second half the Panthers weren’t sharp and Spring Valley pulled away for a 25-7 victory.

Central played capably in the first half on Friday. The Panthers had a long drive to start the game. While it didn’t produce points, it did show that the Panthers could move the ball against Spring Valley’s defense.

Spring Valley answered that drive with one of its own, going the length of the field to score with 2:46 left in the first quarter.

Central’s defense set up the Panthers’ score in the second quarter. Spring Valley tried a dive play into the line and the Panther defense stood up the running back. The Panthers were able to pull the ball free, recovering the fumble at the Cardinal 48.

The Panthers covered most of that yardage on one play. Quarterback Jason Matteson got the ball to Tony Berg on a short swing pass. Berg carried the ball 45 yards, using two downfield blocks from Cody Peterson to get to the Spring Valley 3. Matteson scored a few plays later, scrambling to his left when the pocket broke down to score from five yards out.

Both teams had chances to score late in the first half. Spring Valley got close, but Central senior Dante Carlson intercepted a Cardinal pass in the end zone.

It was the Panthers’ turn next. Fueled by a couple nice catches from Carlson, the Panthers got in range for a field goal attempt. A high snap threw off the timing and the kick sailed wide, leaving the score at halftime 7-7.

The score didn’t stay there long. Spring Valley broke a long kickoff return to start the second half, all the way to the Panther 44. On the next play, Spring Valley quarterback Zach Newton broke free for a 44-yard touchdown.

Later in the second half the Panthers gave up a pair of long touchdowns. The first was on a 63-yard run by Jed Schlegel. The second was on a 38-yard interception return by Trent Miller.

The loss didn’t set well with the Panthers, who had a long team meeting following the game.

“The kids are frustrated, the coaches are frustrated,” said Central head coach Tony DiSalvo.

The challenges don’t get any easier for the Panthers this week, facing defending Division 7 state champion Glenwood City. The Hilltoppers have one of the best ground attacks in the area, led by Isaac Tuttle, who has already gained 1,299 yards this season. The Toppers average 395 yards on the ground per game.

“They’re a good team,” DiSalvo said. “They don’t make many mistakes.”

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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