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St. Croix Central football team urged to pick up intensity

With two games left before the WIAA playoffs begin, St. Croix Central football coach Tony DiSalvo said it's time for the Panthers to reach playoff intensity.

The Panther coaches weren't overly pleased with the team's intensity or execution in last Friday's 41-30 non-conference loss at Arcadia.

This Friday the Panthers return to Dunn-St. Croix Conference action with a game at Spring Valley. They finish their regular season on Thursday, Oct. 11 by hosting Glenwood City.

The Panther offense had another productive night at Arcadia on Friday. Unfortunately, Arcadia's offense was even more successful against the Panther defense.

Central led Friday's game 18-12 at halftime. The pivotal stretch of the game was the third quarter. The Panthers were on offense for just five plays in the quarter, fumbling the ball away during their only possession.

The third quarter also magnified the Panthers' defensive issues. Arcadia hit a 26-yard pass on a third-and-long situation that kept a scoring drive alive. It was one of numerous times when the Panther defense couldn't make a stop. Arcadia scored twice in the third quarter and again early in the fourth quarter to pull away from the Panthers 35-20.

"Arcadia was able to make several fourth down conversions and a very high percentage of third down conversions," said Central coach Tony DiSalvo. DiSalvo said he's looking for a more consistent effort from the Panthers' defensive front. "We need the defense to show up on every play."

It wasn't just the defense that drew the coaches' ire. The performance of the Panthers on extra point chances was so bad that the coaches are considering going back to kicking on extra point attempts.

Central was able to cut Arcadia's lead to 35-30 with 2:29 left in the game. The Panthers elected to try an onside kick. The ball went to Arcadia's leading rusher, Paul Mines, who returned it 42 yards for the touchdown while several Panthers appeared confused on whether the ball could be returned.

The Panther offense generated 427 yards on Friday, which the coaches believed should have been enough to win the game. Quarterback Carl Moll passed for 256 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran in two touchdowns.

Arcadia's defense was geared to take away Central receiver Cody Nyhagen, so the other Panther receivers stepped up their production. That was led by Tyler Lathe, who finished with four catches for 102 yards and a 52-yard touchdown.

DiSalvo said the coaches were also extremely pleased with the work of Ron Delander at running back. Delander averaged 5.4 yards per carry and "he blocked very well," DiSalvo said.

In preparing for this Friday's game against Spring Valley, which has already been eliminated from playoff contention, the Panther coaches want the players to look inward.

"We can't worry about 'The Valley.' We've got to worry about ourselves," DiSalvo said. "The next two weeks, we've got to clean things up."