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Central football to battle for second place in D-SC

The St. Croix Central football team has already locked up a place in the 2008 WIAA State Football Playoff that begin next Tuesday.

That doesn't mean the Panthers don't have anything to play for when they host Elk Mound in the regular season finale for both teams this Thursday.

Central and Elk Mound are tied for second place in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference standings. So the winner of Thursday's game will be the outright holder of second place in the final conference standings.

The Panthers are coming off a 36-0 win over Boyceville that guaranteed them a place in the state playoffs. The Panthers dominated all the aspects of the game against the young Boyceville team.

Central's special teams made their biggest contribution of the season in Thursday's game. Central junior Luke Brown returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to raise Central's lead to 22-0.

Brown struck again in the third quarter. This time he carried a punt 46 yards to paydirt to make the lead 30-0.

Central head coach Tony DiSalvo said the Panthers have been working hard to make their special teams more productive.

For Central's defense, this game was business as usual. The defense has now allowed one touchdown in the last 4.5 games. Central's pass rush made Friday night painful for Boyceville freshman quarterback Ryan Bloom. The Panthers sacked Bloom eight times, with Jesse Krizan recording four of the sacks. Cody Olson contributed two sacks.

Bloom was only able to complete one of his 16 passes in the game. The Panthers caught more of his passes, with Brown and Jonathon Stephens each recording an interception in the game.

With the success of the special teams and defense, the Panther offense didn't spend a great deal of time on the field during Friday's game. Zach Gillis carried the ball 11 times for 82 yards and two touchdowns in the game. No other Panther carried the ball more than three times in the game. The Panther coaches used the lopsided game as an opportunity to get the reserves as much varsity playing time as possible.

That helps the Panthers to be quite healthy as they head into Thursday's game and the playoffs. Against Elk Mound they will be facing a team that plays out of the spread offense. The Mounders have a strong running game, led by Jake Mack and Derek Susa.

Next Tuesday the Panthers begin the state playoffs. Heading into this week's games, the Panthers were viewed as a team that could end up in Division 4 or Division 5 in the playoffs. Central's enrollment is on the borderline of the projections between those two divisions.

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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