St. Croix Central Panthers

It was ball control all the way for the St. Croix Central football team on Friday. The Panthers ability to maintain long, steady drives produced a 35-20 non-conference win over Elk Mound in a non-conference game at Hammond.

The win evens the Panthers’ record at 1-1. Central begins its 2021 Middle Border Conference schedule next Friday with a home game against Osceola.

The Panthers showed their intent in the opening drive of the game and they stuck with the successful game plan. The Panthers took nearly six minutes, driving 80 yards with a slick mix of running plays. Fullback Parker Shackleton finished the drive with a short blast into the end zone.

Central’s lead increased to 14-0 when A.J. Holmgren scored on a similar charge into the end zone with 8:56 left in the second half. But just when it looked like Central might pull away, Elk Mound got its passing game working. Central was getting no pass rush, especially from the interior of the line, so Elk Mound’s quarterback was able to settle in the pocket. With 4:12 left in the half, the Mounders scored on a 44-yard pass. It was game on.

The Panthers struck right back, with Shackleton bursting through a hole with 1:56 left for a 15-yard score. A minute later, Elk Mound’s top receiver got behind the Panthers’ secondary for another 44-yard score, leaving Central with a 21-14 lead at halftime.

The best thing about Central’s ball control was it took the ball away from Elk Mound for long stretches, like most of the third quarter. Neither team scored in that quarter, but Central quarterback Ethan Boettcher broke free on the opening play of the fourth quarter for a 22-yard score.

Panther coach John Tackmann said Shackleton and Holmgren shared time at fullback because they both also had to start on defense. Last week it was Boettcher who was propelled into a defensive starting role due to injury. This week, David Olson was back at safety, allowing Boettcher to concentrate on offense.

Elk Mound was persistent and the Mounders scored with seven minutes remaining. The Panthers got the capper with 4:07 left when Sam Fischer scored on a 10-yard cutback to make the final score 35-20.

The offense shined all night for the Panthers, producing more than 400 yards on the ground.

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