The St. Croix Central football team found no way to move the ball offensively in Friday’s Middle Border Conference opener at home against Rice Lake.
The Panthers were held to less than 100 yards in a 20-0 loss. It was Rice Lake’s MBC debut 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 on an extended drive in the first quarter. Central’s inability to move the ball resulted in an increasingly 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 final seconds of the first half. Junior center defensive back Eli Ponath intercepted a deep pass in the closing seconds of the half to leave Rice Lake up 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.
Center coach John Tackmann said Rice Lake’s size and athletic ability took away from everything the Panthers were trying to accomplish on offense. He credited Rice Lake inside linebacker Easton Stone with moving from sideline to sideline to eliminate Central’s perimeter offense.
“We feel we played well defensively,” Tackmann said. “We forced four or five fumbles but didn’t recover a single one.”
Tackmann said nose tackle Riley Drinkwine and the Panthers defensive end played well to help the Panthers corral the Warriors offense.
He said the Panthers made a number of “minor mistakes” that proved costly in the game. Some of them came to block assignments, preventing the Panthers from gaining momentum. Fullback AJ Holmgren led the Panthers offense with 33 rushing yards on 11 attempts. The Panthers managed to complete two assists 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.