By Marlys Kruger
(Timing is everything which is a sports cliché that pertains to this write-up. A four part story will become five parts due to time and space with the upcoming sports season beginning).
After taking his football team to the Level 4 playoff game in 1999, coach Dan Pedersen and his Mounder team had a down year by their standards when they finished the 2000 season with a record of 5-4 overall and 3-4 in the Small Conference, leaving them out of the playoffs.
Although they won their first two games 27-14 over Colfax and 40-6 against St. Croix Central with Tyler Suckow rushing for four TDs against the Panthers, the team dropped a pair of conference games to Spring Valley and Glenwood City. Zed Zielie started the season as the quarterback but an injury to receiver Jake Sivertson forced Pedersen to do some shuffling, moving Zielie to the receiver spot and putting sophomore Josh Fizel in at QB. The change seemed to work as Fizel connected with Zielie several times during the course of the season including in a 12-7 win over Pepin which also had a 25 yard scoring run by Suckow. Jared Myers recovered a fumble late in the game to seal the win for Elk Mound, (after Jake Morris’s high school jersey number was retired at halftime.) Down 21-14 against Elmwood at the half, Suckow hit pay dirt twice and freshman Paul Hittman returned an 80 yard interception for the winning score in the waning seconds. Having to play Spring Valley and Glenwood City again due to the way things were set up in the conference, didn’t change the results as they dropped both contests to end the season. Suckow became just the second player since Morris to rush for over 1,000 yards in two consecutive seasons, accumulating 1,077 for the year. He was a first team All Conference pick for his efforts along with J.J. Dwyer while Zielie was honorable mention, and Dwyer was first team on defense as was Zielie and Matt Mousel, while Daren Dummer was HM.
Back to the playoffs
It didn’t take long for the Mounders to get back to post-season play as they had Fizel back at quarterback for his junior year. With Fizel’s passing skills and Nick Schumacher and Mousel shredding other team’s defenses on the ground while wearing new team uniforms, Elk Mound opened the season with five straight wins over Colfax, SCC, Plum City, Pepin and Elmwood. The game against Pepin started with a 99 yard drive with Schumacher crossing the end zone from seven yards out on the 14th play of the drive. Fizel also threw for four scores in the game, twice to Johnson and Hittman. But again the “Big” two in the Small Conference were too much for the Mounders as they lost 35-0 to Spring Valley and 28-20 to the Hilltoppers. But beating Plum City and Pepin for the second time gave the Mounders a 5-2 conference record, setting them up for a Level 1 playoff game against Grantsburg. They pounded the Pirates 41-13 with Mousel rushing for 124 yards and Schumacher adding 86 while Fizel passed for 123 yards on nine for 13 completions. Facing the 10-0 Stratford team was a tough task however, as the Stratford defense chased Fizel all over and picked off five of his passes in a 39-7 win, ending the Mounders season with an 8-3 record. Fizel passed for over 1,400 yards on the season.
Beginning his 29th season as the Mounders’ leader, Pedersen saw another realignment of the D-SC Conference as it went back to one-eight team conference in 2002 which was just fine with him. After a couple of non-conference wins over Colby and Owen-Withee, the Mounders started conference play by shocking Spring Valley 21-0 and pounding the new team in the D-SC, Unity 41-0. Mousel, Hittman, and Nick and Ryan Schumacher tore through opponent’s defenses on the ground while Brandon Powell showed off his speed on an 81 yard kickoff return in a 21-12 win over Colfax. Two more shutouts followed, 20-0 over Mondovi and 33-0 against Glenwood City, as the Mounders allowed only four TDs in 28 quarters of play. Down 13-0 against SCC, the Mounders mounted an 80 yard scoring drive with Nick Schumacher finally scoring and a Fizel four yard run set up by Powell’s 80 yard kickoff return along with Hittman’s kick gave Elk Mound the lead. Down again, 19-14, Fizel completed five of six passes, hitting Powell for an 11 yard score and Hittman for the two point conversion for a 22-19 win, setting up a conference showdown with 8-0 Boyceville. In front of a standing room only crowd on their home field, they slid by the Bulldogs 9-0 on a 28 yard field goal by Hittman and a Fizel to Boardman pass from 13 yards out. Ryan Schumacher made a leaping interception with 4:22 left to seal the win and the conference championship.
Playing in the D6 playoffs (Boyceville went to the D5 playoffs), the Mounders trounced Cameron 35-0 for their seventh shutout of the season but ran into a buzz saw by the name of Matt Jordan in a 46-27 loss to Thorp. Jordan ran for 244 yards and three TDs while the Mounders potent ground game was held to 86 yards. Fizel was successful in the air as he passed for three scores, one to Mousel, one to Arneson for 74 yards and another to Hittman. Fizel was first team AC as the quarterback and Andy Ausman and Suckow were also first teamers. Hittman was first team as the place kicker and on defense as well as second team on offense. Mousel, Nick Schumacher and Kevin Jensen were named second team and Boardman HM. On defense, Suckow, Mousel, Boardman and Arneson were on the first team and Ryan Schumacher and Powell were second team picks.
After a 26-0 opening game loss to Colby to start the 2003 season, Pedersen must have given his team a wake up call as they went on an eight game winning streak which included Pedersen’s 200th win in a 40-14 victory over Glenwood City mid-season. Facing a showdown with Spring Valley with both teams undefeated in conference play and the Cardinals ranked number one in the state in D6, a defensive battle took place, resulting in the Mounders pulling out a 13-7 win. Down 7-0, Suckow pounded the ball in with just under a minute left in the half and a Hittman kick knotted things up. Suckow hit pay dirt from nine yards out in the fourth quarter and Cody Stallman pounced on a Cardinal fumble to wrap the game up.
Cameron had to be wishing they could go anywhere else but Elk Mound as they were crushed again by the Mounders in the Level 1 playoff game 42-0. Aaron Blicher rushed for 113 yards and two TDs and Suckow and Ausman also scored once but Powell had the crowd on their feet when he returned a kickoff back 80 yards yet again and added a 68 yard punt return for a score in the win. That led to a rematch with Spring Valley which ended up in a heartbreaking loss this time for the Mounders, 7-3 as Hittman’s 23 yard field goal was all they could muster offensively. Elk Mound had the ball as close as the Cardinal 6, 15 and 25 yard line but couldn’t get past or over the stifling Spring Valley defense, ending their season with a 9-2 record.
After losing so many key players, Pedersen did not expect his team to be a serious contender to repeat as conference champs in 2004. (Or he may have been just downplaying things for opposing coaches!) But the team fooled everyone when the team posted a perfect 9-0 record as new quarterback Cal Johnson started the season off with three TD passes in a 39-26 win over Wisconsin Heights at the UW-Stout Gridiron Classic. He found three different receivers for those scores including Tim Payne, Rob Cernecky and Ryan Schumacher who had missed the whole previous season with a knee injury. After a 36-21 win over Owen-Withee, conference play began with the Mounders taking on the 2-0 Colfax boys. Schumacher shredded the Viking’s defense for 199 yards and four TDs, but Powell was knocked unconscious in the game and carried off the field. He bounced back quickly, combining with Schumacher for five scores in the next game against Mondovi, a 49-6 win and a pair of Johnson to Powell passes for two TDs and two Schumacher runs gave them a 28-0 win over Glenwood City. They assured themselves a playoff berth by smacking St. Croix Central 36-7, and continued to roll through the conference with a 49-6 victory over Boyceville as Johnson connected with Payne twice and Powell ran a 68 yard punt return back. On the first play of the 29-13 win over Spring Valley, Powell electrified the crown yet again with an 86 yard run to the end zone and they capped off the perfect regular season by topping Unity 35-23 for their third straight conference title. Powell was injured in the game but Schumacher took the ball over the goal line four times while Jesse Jensen scored on a three yard run. Mike Siebenshuh was a consistent place kicker all season and booted all five extra points in the game.
Back to D5 playoffs as Schumacher surpassed the 1,000 yard rushing mark with 131 in the Level 1 win over Cadott 27-18.The Mounders forced the Hornets into six turnovers and Erickson fell on a blocked punt in the end zone for one of the scores. They moved past Osseo-Fairchild in Level 2, 23-7 on a muddy home field as a hobbling Powell went on a 67 yard run and was dragged down on the Chieftains’ 25 yard line. Schumacher took it on a fourth and one and scored later after an 80 yard drive by the Mounders. But according to Pedersen, his team was overmatched and over powered when they lost 40-10 to Somerset. Elk Mound was held to 51 total rushing yards and the defense couldn’t stop Tom Hennessey who ran for 276 yards and five TDs in the game. Schumacher ended his career by scoring on a 28 yard screen pass and finished the season with 1,400 rushing yards, placing him fourth on the school’s list. He, along with Powell (who probably holds several records for kickoff and punt returns), were named first team All Conference for offense and defense. Also on the first team for offense were quarterback Johnson, linemen Mark Price and Joel Meyer and place kicker Siebenshuh. On the second team were running back Shea, end Payne and Matt Mai and HM were Gary Wilcox and Schumacher as the punter. First team defense honors went to Mai, Cernocky, Meyer, Price, Chad Curry and HM Kyle Erickson.
Up next: Can Pedersen and the Mounders continue to dominate the D-SC Conference?