If opponents were thinking there was going to be a significant dropoff from the St. Croix Central football team, the 2019 season opener showed that isn’t likely to happen.

Central went to Durand on Friday to open the 2019 season and Central delivered a 41-6 pummeling in the non-conference victory.

In the win, Central showed a major big play ability. The Panthers generated numerous plays that covered more than 25 yards, not including plays of more than 60 and 90 yards that were brought back because of penalties.

In fact, penalties were one of the things that new Central coach John Tackmann could find as a negative from the victory. The Panthers committed nine penalties. He said most of the penalties came in the open field, where players were overzealous in trying to execute blocks as the backs and receivers were making big plays.

With an entirely new offensive backfield, there was uncertainty on how Central would produce on offense. Any questions were answered swiftly and completely. Halfback Trevor Kopacz and quarterback Tadan Holzer both rushed for more than 100 yards, as the Panthers rushed for 314 yards as a team. Tackmann said Kopacz’s ability to get to the edge and turn plays upfield gives the Panthers an immediate big-play element. It was Kopacz who had both of the big plays that were called back because of penalties.

Central also showed it can generate big plays through the air. Durand was crashing the center of the line hard out of respect for Central’s long-standing reputation for grinding out yardage with its fullbacks. That opened up avenues for the halfbacks and the passing game. Holzer completed four passes, but they covered 166 yards. That included touchdown passes of 50 yards to Luke Holme and 27 yards to Kopacz. Holzer and Gabe Siler also connected on a 91-yard pass that took the ball to the Durand 1-yard line, setting up a touchdown by Jacob Roussopolous. He and Braeden Bloom combined for 73 yards from the fullback position.

Central took charge of the game quickly, with Kopacz and Roussopolous scoring in the first quarter. Durand then scored its only touchdown on a 77-yard kickoff return. Holme and Roussopolous scored in the second quarter, putting Central comfortably ahead 28-7 by halftime. Holzer and Kopacz scored Central’s final touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

The coaches were pleased with the work of the offensive backfield, considering four of the players were taking their first varsity snaps at their positions in this game.

Tackmann said Central’s defense largely performed well, except for giving up several pass receptions. He said the defensive backs were in position, “they just need to make the plays. They’ve got to trust their skills.”

The Panthers will be on the road again this Thursday for their second non-conference game. They’ll play at former Dunn-St. Croix Conference nemesis Elk Mound. The Mounders opened the season on Friday with a 40-0 blasting of Cochrane-Fountain City. Blaze Todd rushed for 254 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Mounders.