The New Richmond football coaches put the game on the shoulders of their linemen.
And the linemen delivered. New Richmond went to St. Croix Central on Friday and knocked off the undefeated Panthers, 42-14.
This is St. Croix Central’s first Middle Border Conference loss since Sept. 29, 2017 when the Panthers lost at Osceola, 17-0.
Central scored the opening touchdown on Friday, before the Tigers answered back with 42 straight points. The Tigers looked like a completely different team than a week ago, when they lost to Baldwin-Woodville, 14-12. The play up front was a key difference for the Tigers.
“We challenged our guys up front all week. That was the best we played on both sides of the line all season,” Larson said.
Larson then took the compliment one step further.
“That’s the most complete game we’ve played in my time in New Richmond,” he said.
Larson said Central’s line is reputed to be one of the best in the area and it was time for the New Richmond linemen they could play at the same level.
While the Tigers were jubilant, the Panthers were stunned. The Panthers outscored their opponents 165-42 in winning their first four games.
“We didn’t play well in the first half, then the wheels fell off,” said St. Croix Central coach John Tackmann, who experienced losing as a head coach for the first time. “We got beat in every phase of the game. When they hit us in the mouth, we fell back.”
New Richmond’s quickness on defense gave Central problems all night. By shooting gaps, New Richmond was able to contain the Panther offense. Central couldn’t run the ball to the outside and the Panthers struggled passing, with three of their pass attempts getting intercepted by the Tigers.
Central scored the first touchdown of the game when Trevor Kopacz broke free on a 30-yard sprint eight minutes into the game. The Tigers answered quickly. The score came on a run by senior Joe Powers, who cut to the sideline and raced for a 65-yard touchdown to tie the score.
Powers struck again with five minutes remaining in the first half. The Tigers used the swing pass to running backs for good yardage all night.Quarterback Tim Salmon swung the ball to Powers, who raced 33 yards to the end zone.
Powers said the coaches had included the passes to the halfbacks in the game plan to spread Central’s linebackers, which opened up the running game for the Tigers. Powers and Zach Panek both ran effectively, with Powers gaining 121 yards and Panek 38 more.
Powers said the seniors held a team meeting during the week to make sure everyone understood the importance of this game. He said he thinks the Tigers can continue to play with this intensity.
“If we can get the same practice energy and hold everyone accountable, I think we’re going in the right direction,” Powers said.
Powers also had one of the three interceptions made by the Tiger secondary, with Riley Schachtner and Payton Pohl getting the others. Powers said he’s much more comfortable this season. He was moved from safety to cornerback, where he said he enjoys the one-on-one battles with opposing receivers. Powers hardly left the field and he is glad to contribute wherever he can.
“I’d play line if they need me to,” he said.
The Tigers didn’t need any help in either line. The second half started with the Tigers driving 76 yards in three plays. Salmon zipped up the middle for a 21-yard score and the Tigers were ahead 21-7, 33 seconds into the half.
Things quickly went from bad to worse for the Panthers. On their fourth play they fumbled and New Richmond linebacker Cooper Strand recovered. A pass interference call moved the ball to the Panther 15. On the next play, Salmon threw a dart to Joey Kidder, who caught the ball at the goal line. With less than four minutes gone in the second half, the Tigers were up 28-7.
Gone also were the adjustments the Central coaches made during halftime. Panek scored with 1:12 left in the quarter, then Kidder caught a five-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter.
At this point, the Tigers inserted JV players, but they didn’t stay in long. They fumbled the ball right back to the Panthers at Central’s 8-yard line. Kopacz scored three plays later for the final score of the night.
The statistics show the difference in how the teams played. Salmon was 16-24 passing for 166 yards. Three receivers had four receptions in the game. The only Panther who had significant yardage was Kopacz, who rushed for 84 yards on 20 carries.
Tackmann refused to use the fact this it was Homecoming Week, or that the Panthers played their first four games on the road, as excuses for the loss. He said the Panthers need to get better quickly, because they host Baldwin-Woodville next Friday. The Blackhawks are alone at the top of the MBC standings with a 3-0 record. Central and New Richmond are both 2-1.
New Richmond will play at home next Friday, with Prescott as the visitor. Prescott lost at Somerset on Friday, 40-7.