Anytime a football team falls behind 20-0 in the first quarter, especially against a high caliber team like St. Croix Central, you can pretty much figure the game is going to end in a rout. But the Colfax team pulled themselves together and scored 13 unanswered points to get within a touchdown and extra point before finally dropping the contest to the Panthers 26-13 in the game played on Central’s home field Sept. 5.
“We were just flat to start the game and that hurt us,” Colfax coach Mark Maloney said. “We have to be ready to play against a high caliber team like Central. But we didn’t hang our heads and we kept ourselves in the game.”
After winning the toss, Colfax deferred and kicked off to the Panthers. Starting at the 50 yard line, Central scored on their fourth play with Trent Smith running in from three yards out. The kick failed and the Vikings were down 6-0 with only a minute and a half gone in the quarter. Colfax took the kickoff at their own 25 and on the second play, quarterback Jarrod Rudi was scrambling to find a receiver and his pass was intercepted with John Spaeth returning it for a score. The kick was missed again but the Vikings were down 12-0 with 10:14 on the clock.
Colfax couldn’t move the ball on their next two turns with the ball, punting twice which turned into a third touchdown for the Panthers as Smith ran in from the seven. A two point run made it 20-0 with just over three minutes still left in the first stanza.But a determined group of Viking running backs put their nose to the grindstone and starting pounding the ball behind their big lineman. Starting at their own 46, Andrew Adix, Jeremiah Wait, Sawyer DeMoe and Aliymu Davis all had turns with the ball and picked up a couple of first downs, the biggest coming on a third and 15 with Davis scooting around the end for 24 yards to the 18. Wait ran four straight times and finally hit paydirt from eight yards out and a Rudi kick made it 20-7.
Central had a fourth and one at midfield and fumbled the ball with Davis falling on it to stop their drive. Colfax tried to capitalize on the turnover and moved the ball to the Panther 17 as Wait and DeMoe ran for back to back first downs. Wait added another and Rudi bulled for another on fourth and one. But the drive stalled at the 17 yard line with a couple of incomplete passes.
Central tried to keep pounding the ball on the ground but the Vikings defense had stiffened up. On a second down pass attempt, Wait played the ball perfectly and picked off the Panther pass at the Vikings’ 20 yard line to stop another drive. But Colfax failed to take advantage again of another turnover and punted the ball away. Central attempted two passes in the final 30 seconds before the half but both were broken up by Viking defenders and DeMoe came up with a sack on the quarterback to end the half.
It turned out getting the ball right away in the second half wasn’t such a bad idea as the Vikings started with the ball on their own 25. Wait ran for six yards and a face mask penalty on the Panthers added 15 more yards.Wait then took a pitch and zipped around the left side for a 58 yard touchdown. The kick was short but the Vikings were in business, down 20-13 with less then a minute gone in the quarter. But a heavy dose of Smith and Kyle Larson and the front line of the Panthers allowed them to move the ball from their own 24 all the way to the endzone on six plays as Smith scored what proved to be the final points for either team with 8:49 showing on the clock.
“Coming out and scoring right away was huge for us,” Maloney said.”We needed to get a momentum change and we did for a few minutes. We just had trouble stopping their quarterback and fullback on the option read.”
Colfax had plenty of chances to get back in the game since their defense was filling holes to stop the Central runners, forcing them to punt several times. Davis took one of those punts and it looked like he might break one for a score but a Panther player grabbed his shirt from behind and pulled him down at midfield. A horse collar was called on the play and the ball was placed on the Central 43 heading into the final quarter. Neither offense could get anything going as the Vikings’ Ben Kragness batted down a Panther third down pass on one possession then sacked the quarterback on their next turn with the ball. Central had a fourth and five but a swarming defense stuffed their ball carrier with 4:55 left in the game.
Rudi tried to hit Andrew Larson for a long pass and after a long discussion by the referees, it was declared incomplete but pass interference was called.Those 15 yards and a 14 yard completion to DeMoe put the ball on the 45 and another long run, this time for 30 yards by Wait brought it to the Panthers 30. But a Wait run, a pair of incomplete passes and a sack on Rudi gave the ball back to Central and they ran out the clock.
“I am proud of how our defense adjusted the second half and made big plays,” Maloney said. “I had picked Central to be the team to beat in conference this year and I think we showed we can play with teams like this,” he added.
Wait was the team workhorse, rushing 30 times for 146 yards. Davis added 31 on five carries and DeMoe tacked on 26 in seven attempts. Rudi was two of nine passing for 21 yards with one completion to DeMoe and the other to Jacob Steinke.
Wait also led the Vikings in tackles with seven from his defensive back position while Rudi and Jon Hayton both collected four.
Colfax will host Spring Valley this Friday night, looking for their first conference win.