BOYCEVILLE — The Boyce-ville football team knew before the game started last Thursday night they needed a win in their final game of the season to become play off eligible. They also knew they were facing an uphill battle as they hosted the conference leading –and undefeated—Elk Mound Mounders. And to make things even tougher, their three leading rushers and defensive standouts, Zach Klassen, Will Kraft and Dominic Olson were banged up from the game last week and didn’t get a whole lot of practice time in during the short week. Not to worry however, as the Bulldogs not only took care of business by winning 12-0, they completely dominated the Mounders by holding them to just 115 total yards on offense.
Elk Mound’s running back Jordan Klemp was leading the conference in rushing yards and entered the game with over 1,000 yards on the ground according to Elk Mound stats, and their quarterback Nick Heit leads the conference in passing yards with over 1,300. But the Boyceville defense, which seemed to spend most of the game in the Mounder’s backfield, held Klemp to just 33 yards in the game and Heit completed just eight of 22 passes for 84 yards as he threw under duress most of the game and was sacked nine times. Kraft nailed him four times, Matt Wathke three and Klassen twice
The Bulldogs set the tone from the beginning as they stuffed Elk Mound on three straight plays on their first possession. Neither team had any success moving the ball on offense and after 12 minutes the scoreboard showed 0-0 for a score. But Kraft eventually found a hole on a drive in the second quarter and burst through for a 49 yard TD run at the 9:40 mark. It appeared Elk Mound would respond on their next drive as they moved the ball down to the Boyceville five yard line, but the Dog’s defense rose to the occasion and stopped them from getting across the goal line, and the teams went into the intermission with Boyceville leading 6-0.
“Our defense put a lot of pressure on them right from the start,” Boyceville coach Brian Roemhild said. “We didn’t have any trouble motivating them for this game because they wanted to continue playing and knew they had to win in order to do that. Elk Mound is a great football team and are well coached so we knew we had to play great all four quarters to have a chance to win.”
Boyceville did just that as they continued to harass Heit in the second half and hold the Elk Mound running game in check. The Bulldogs opened the third quarter with a long drive that brought them all the way to the Mounder’s five yard line, but a fumble was recovered by Elk Mound to end the threat. After holding the Mounders to a three and out, Boyceville took over again and moved the ball down to the Mounder’s 25. They shot themselves in the foot once more however, when Elk Mound intercepted a pass. Kraft came up with a big quarterback sack, forcing the Mounders to punt again which seemed to fire up the offense as they used the running game of their three big guys again, this time with a better result as Klassen punched the ball over from a yard out with 5:13 to go in the game for a 12-0 lead.
Elk Mound made an attempt to get back in the game as they took to the air and picked up a couple of first downs on their final possession, but Isaac Wold and Josh Cormican broke up several pass attempts after that, allowing Boyceville to hang on for the win.
“Everybody stepped up tonight and played at a high level,” Roemhild said. “With three players not getting a lot of reps in practice this week, we weren’t sure what would happen. But they are all tough kids and they were determined to play tonight. We didn’t feel like we had a win until the last 20 seconds when we ran out the clock. It was just a great win for our program against a very good team.”
Although Elk Mound ended the conference season 5-1, they still won the championship outright with help from Glenwood City who beat St. Croix Central on the same night. Mounder coach Dan Pedersen, in his 39th year leading the team commented after the game.
“I give all the credit to Boyceville for them winning this game. They were very physical and ran three times more plays than we did, not allowing us to get our hands on the ball very often. And when we did, they completely took us out of our game with their defensive pressure. They deserved to win,” he said.
Boyceville finished the game with 279 rushing yards as Klassen led the way with 175 on 29 carries, while Kraft added 75 on ten rushes and Olson picked up 24 on nine attempts. Quarterback Matt Leach completed one of five passes which was a 10 yarder to Cormican.
Boyceville ended the regular season with a 5-3 record (3-3 conference) and now faces a tough task as they begin playoffs at Whitehall this Friday night. Whitehall won the Dairyland Conference with a 7-0 record and are the number two seed in Group A of Division 6 while Boyceville is the number seven seed. Besides Boyceville and Elk Mound, three other teams from the Dunn-St. Croix Conference are playoff bound including St. Croix Central, Glenwood City and Mondovi.