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St. Croix Central football team completes first perfect regular season since 1988

St. Croix Central defensive back Jag Johnson (center) goes up to bat away a Spring Valley in the end zone during Friday's game.1 / 3
The St. Croix Central football seniors celebrate their perfect season following Thursday's game.2 / 3
Central senior halfback Korey Jacobson broke three long plays for the Panthers' touchdowns in their win over Spring Valley.3 / 3

The drive for perfection fueled the St. Croix Central football team during the past month.

The St. Croix Central football team completed its first perfect regular season since 1988 with a 20-7 win over Spring Valley on Thursday.

The Panthers finish the regular season as undisputed Dunn-St. Croix Conference champions. Spring Valley would have earned a share of the conference title with a win over the Panthers.

Senior Korey Jacobson scored all three Panther touchdowns on Thursday. His first touchdown was on a 69-yard dash down the Central sideline on the second play of the second quarter. He scored again with 46 seconds left in the first half on a 46-yard screen pass from quarterback Carl Moll. His clinching touchdown came on a 21-yard burst up the middle with 15 seconds left in the third quarter.

Matching the success of the 1988 Panther team has long been a goal for this year's squad. After winning the Dunn-St. Croix Conference in 1988, the Panthers went on to win a WIAA state championship.

At one point during the season, Central coach Tony DiSalvo brought in the Myer triplets, stars of the 1988 team, to talk to this year's Panthers. He said their talk centered around perseverance and what it takes to succeed as the opposition gets more and more difficult.

The Panthers had to rise to meet the challenge of a motivated Spring Valley team on Thursday. DiSalvo said the Panthers' success Thursday was largely due to a stellar defensive effort. The Panther defense kept Spring Valley under 200 yards of total offense for the night.

Spring Valley came into the game thinking they could pass on the Panthers. They targeted Central cornerback Jag Johnson, but he responded with a strong performance. He knocked down several passes and was a main reason why the Cards could only complete six of their 23 pass attempts.

"Jag's got a lot of athletic ability. Every time he practices or plays, he gets better," DiSalvo said.

The Panther offense wasn't as sharp as the defense on Thursday. The big-play production of Jacobson bailed out the offense. Jacobson accounted for 212 yards on his 12 carries and two receptions. The Panthers finished with 308 total yards for the game.

DiSalvo said the Panthers have gotten into a habit of looking for a big play on every offensive down. He said the offense needs to develop more patience.

"There's nothing wrong with four or five yards, that's a good play. They don't need to always shoot for the home run," DiSalvo said.

Jacobson was the difference maker on Thursday. He now has more than 1,000 yards of total offense this season.

"I've never coached a kid as fast as he is," DiSalvo said. "He's got a whole nother gear. We've got to get him the ball more."

WIAA playoffs

The Panthers didn't have much time to enjoy their conference championship, because they knew who their likely first-round opponent would be in the WIAA playoffs.

Central will host Baldwin-Woodville in the opening round of WIAA Division 4 playoff action at 3 p.m. this Saturday. This rivalry has become one of the best in the area. Central beat the Blackhawks 48-20 in the second week of the season and the Blackhawks will be gunning for revenge this time around. In the past several years Baldwin-Woodville has knocked off teams in the playoffs who had beaten them in the regular season, so this is not a game the Panthers can take for granted.

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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