SCC football hopes to finish regular season unbeaten
For the first time since moving to the Middle Border Conference in 2015, the St. Croix Central football team has earned an MBC football championship.
The Panthers locked up a share of the 2018 MBC title on Friday with a 42-8 win at Prescott. This Friday, the Panthers will play at home, with the outright MBC championship on the line. The opponent will be Somerset, which also has plenty to play for. A Somerset victory would leave Central and Somerset tied for the conference championship at 6-1.
Friday’s game also has huge ramifications in terms of the WIAA football divisional pairings. Central and Somerset will both compete in the Division 4 playoffs. Central hopes to receive the top seed in the regional bracket, though Northwestern is also undefeated and will also likely make a push for the top seed if it makes it through Friday’s game without a loss. Northwestern is playing at Barron, which is 1-7, so a win is likely. This makes Friday’s clash with Somerset even more important for the Panthers.
St. Croix Central coach Tony DiSalvo was blunt in assessing the importance of Friday’s game. He said the Panthers need to be challenged. The 34-point winning margin the Panthers had at Prescott last Friday was the team’s smallest winning margin since the opening game of the season. The Panthers have tore through their schedule with incredible ease. The Panthers have outscored their MBC opponents 219-22 this season. The Panthers haven’t rang up huge individual stats this season, mainly because the starters have been pulled in nearly every game early in the second half.
That was the case at Prescott on Friday. Central’s starters only played the first half of the game, because Central was already ahead 42-0 at halftime.
DiSalvo said there’s one major advantage to getting those big leads early. The coaches have been able to give the younger players on the roster extensive playing time, which will have them ready for varsity play in case there’s an injury, and it will make them more battle tested next season when they’ll step into bigger roles.
Winless Prescott did not challenge the Panthers often on Friday. Prescott struggled to muster any offense in the rainy conditions and Central’s defense swarmed all over the Cardinals. Prescott had 106 yards of total offense, nearly all of it coming in the second half.
Central already had a 28-0 lead built up by the end of the first quarter. Austin Kopacz scored twice in the opening quarter, once on a 31-yard run and the other on a 15-yard fumble return. Ryan Larson and Mike Steinmetz also scored in the first quarter. Kopacz and Keagen Berg scored in the second quarter to build a 42-0 lead.
The Central reserves were held scoreless with the running clock in the second half. DiSalvo said several younger players used their time in the second half to make a mark on defense. That was led by Mason Dado and Zavier Sentinella, who finished with 10 and nine tackles, respectively.
The Panthers substituted liberally in the game, with 12 different players getting the chance to carry the ball on offense.