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Panthers hoping to get share of MBC title

St. Croix Central offensive coordinator Ryan Berg and quarterback Collin Nelson (2) look to coaches on the sideline for input during a timeout in Friday's 35-0 win over Prescott. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

This Friday, the St. Croix Central football team will be rooting for the New Richmond football team.

If Central can win at Somerset Friday, and if New Richmond knocks off undefeated Osceola, there would be three teams that tie for the Middle Border Conference championship. If these results come true, Central, New Richmond and Osceola would all finish with 6-1 MBC records.

The results from Friday are huge for the Panthers for several reasons. The conference championship is important of course, but going into the WIAA sectional seeding meeting as conference champions on Saturday would be a great boost for Central's seeding possibilities.

The Panthers know they can't look past Somerset this Friday. After starting 0-6, Somerset has won its past two games. And the two teams run nearly identical offensive systems.

"We're going to have our work cut out for us," warned Central coach Tony DiSalvo. "It's their playoff game. With Kergy (former SCC athletic director Jeremy Kerg) helping out there and their knowledge of us, we'll have to take care of business."

DiSalvo said the Panthers will have to respect the rushing ability of Somerset fullback Jack Peterson. He is the MBC's leading rusher with 1,305 yards in eight games.

The Panthers are coming off a 35-0 win over Prescott last Friday. The Panthers thoroughly dominated their Senior Night game. Central's defense was outstanding in the rainy, muddy conditions, limiting Prescott to 102 yards of total offense.

"They tried to run the ball right at us and you're not going to do that against us," DiSalvo said.

Prescott didn't get its initial first down of the game until the middle of the second quarter. By that time, Central had already built up a 28-0 lead. By halftime, Central was ahead 35-0. The reserves played a significant amount of the second half as the coaches guarded against injury in the slippery conditions.

The game swung in Central's direction early, with the Panthers scoring off their first three possessions. The tone was set on Central's first offensive play when quarterback Collin Nelson broke free on a 30-yard run. That led to a nine-yard touchdown run by Alec Fischer.

The Panthers' possessions were short and successful. Fullback Ryan Larson bolted through a hole for a 40-yard touchdown run on the second possession. The third possession ended the same way, with Larson charging upfield for a 58-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter.

The next Panther score was set up by the special teams. Defensive end Peyton Nogal broke through the blocking and blocked Prescott's punt, recovering the ball on the Cardinals' 4-yard line. Larson scored on the next play to bump the lead up to 28-0.

DiSalvo said the Panthers have been working on their punt block, looking to find every possible way to score. Getting Nogal involved more is another goal.

"He's a nice looking player and he's getting better," DiSalvo said.

It was the defense's turn to score. Prescott's quarterback went back to pass. But as he cocked his arm, the ball went squirting to his right. Central's Derek Myer scooped up the slick leather and raced 38 yards for the final touchdown of the night.

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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