St. Croix Central Panthers

The St. Croix Central football team couldn’t find any way to move the ball offensively in its Middle Border Conference opener Friday at home against Rice Lake.

The Panthers were limited to less than 100 yards of offense in a 20-0 loss. This was Rice Lake’s debut in the MBC after being moved by the WIAA from the Big Rivers Conference. Rice Lake is the No. 2 ranked team in Division 3 in the state.

Rice Lake scored off an extended drive in the first quarter. Central’s inability to move the ball resulted in better and better field position for Rice Lake. Rice Lake took advantage of the short field to score again in the second quarter.

Rice Lake tried to drive in the closing seconds of the first half. Central junior defensive back Eli Ponath intercepted a deep pass in the final seconds of the half, leaving Rice Lake’s lead at 14-0 at the break.

Neither team had much success moving the ball in the second half. Rice Lake scored with 7:56 left in the game on a 16-yard rollout pass to make the final score 20-0.

Central coach John Tackmann said Rice Lake’s size and athletic ability took away everything the Panthers were trying to accomplish on offense. He credited Rice Lake inside linebacker Easton Stone for ranging sideline-to-sideline to take away Central’s perimeter offense.

“We felt we played pretty well defensively,” Tackmann said. “We forced four or five fumbles but we didn’t recover a single one of them.”

Tackmann said nose tackle Riley Drinkwine and the Panther defensive ends played well in helping the Panthers corral the Warrior offense.

He said the Panthers had a number of “minor mistakes” that proved costly in the game. Some of those came on blocking assignments, preventing the Panthers from gaining any momentum. Fullback A.J. Holmgren led the Panther offense with 33 yards rushing on 11 attempts. The Panthers managed to complete two passes in the game. Both went to Kyle Trainor, covering a total of 29 yards.

Central will be back in action this Friday in a game at Osceola. The Chieftains suffered a 43-23 loss at Prescott in their MBC opener on Friday.

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