BOYCEVILLE — If you want to become the best then you have to beat the best.
That is just what Boyceville’s football team did here last Friday night.
The Bulldogs discovered they have some grit in their game as they used a pair of first-half touchdowns including a long Logan McAbee-Thomas run to corral the defending conference champion Buffaloes of Mondovi, 13-10, in a hard-hitting and thrilling contest on Boyceville’s home turf September 5.
The conference opening win propelled Boyceville to its best start in a dozen seasons as the Bulldogs improved to 3-0 – all three wins were earned on the friendly confines of Evenson Field.
“First time since we have been coaching here that we have started out 3-0 and Mondovi is a class act,” said Boyceville head coach Brian Roemhild. “They have a good coach and are defending conference champs so this is a game we needed tonight.”
It is the type of signature win that Boyceville, a preseason favorite, needs under its belt as it challenges for the Dunn-St. Croix title this year.
In fact, the last time that Boyceville opened a gridiron season with three straight wins was in 2002 when Mike Roemhild, now an assistant on his brother’s team, quarterbacked the Bulldogs to eight straight wins.
Ironically, the team earned its fourth straight with a memorable 44-38 triple-overtime victory against Mondovi and went on to post eight consecutive victories before falling 9-0 in the regular season finale to eventually champ Elk Mound.
But the Bulldogs know there is still plenty of tough games left on the schedule this season but Roemhild likes his team’s start.
“I thought our defense did an excellent job of bend but don’t break,” Roemhild said. “And the kids did a great job of playing through adversity.”
“We made a lot of mistakes with penalties that cost us some things tonight but we can learn from them and take a victory any time we can get it.”
Despite some costly penalties that stalled a couple of promising drives, the Bulldogs persevered to register the win.
Boyceville also found a compliment to its run-and-shot offensive style.
“We just found out that we have a power running game and a passing game which is good to know,” added the Bulldogs’ head coach.
Boyceville was able to post 240 yards rushing in a physical, hard-nose battle against one of the conference’s best in that category. Senior Logan McAbee-Thomas buffaloed the Mondovi defense time and again to collect 193 yards including 95 yards on a second-quarter run that proved to be the game winner in the tightly played game.
Boyceville displayed that power on the game’s opening offensive series as it put together a 13-play, 75-yard drive for a quick 7-0 lead.
McAbee-Thomas and backfield mate, junior Jordan Morse, ran for 22 and 24 yards respectively during the drive which culminated in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Hunter Anderson to Brady Schutts with 6:09 left in the first quarter.
Mondovi moved the ball on its first offensive go-round picking up three straight first downs but the Boyceville defense did eventually force a punt.
Boyceville took control at its own seven and did manage to pick up some breathing room with a first down but was forced to punt.
That’s when disaster struck.
The snap to Boyceville punter Brett Boda sailed over his head and out of the end zone for a safety that put Mondovi on the board just a minute into the second quarter.
The Buffaloes returned the free kick to near mid-field.
But Mondovi’s opportunity to take the lead ended quickly when the Bulldogs’ Hunter Anderson snared the first of his two Jake Ede interceptions.
Unfortunately, Anderson gave the ball back to Mondovi two plays later when his pass was picked off by Colton Berg at the Boyceville 39.
Ede would take the Buffaloes inside the 15-yard line but Anderson went to the ground to scoop up his second interception at the one yard line.
Pinned near its own goal line, Boyceville opted for a quarterback keeper on first down to gain some “breathing” room. Anderson hauled the ball four yards to the five.
On second down, Logan McAbee-Thomas sprinted through a nice hole created by his offensive line and then out ran a pair of defenders for the 95-yard score with just 2:29 left in the half. Jake Lake, who made good on his first PAT, missed his second attempt just to the right, as Boyceville held a 13-2 advantage which was also the score at intermission.
“That was a momentum one,” said Roemhild of the McAbee-Thomas run.
“We just ran a straight power (play) and we have a good group of lineman on that side of the ball and Logan did an excellent job of escaping from a couple of defenders downfield. It was a big boost and we needed that.”
That boost carried over into the second half.
Boyceville forced Mondovi to punt the opening possession of the third quarter after just three plays.
Boyceville jump started another promising drive with a 18-yard McAbee-Thomas run.
A few plays later, the Bulldogs were flagged for a hold which threatened the drive. But Anderson found an open Brett Boda for a big 33-yard pass completion to the Mondovi 31.
Runs of five and four yards by Morse and McAbee-Thomas had the Bulldogs close to another first down when the team was again flagged, this time on a motion penalty. But Anderson delivered a fourth-down pass to Mitch Leach for eight yards and a fresh set of downs just inside the Mondovi 20.
But another illegal motion infraction, an incompletion, and a sack had the Bulldogs in a third and 21. Anderson flared the ball out to McAbee-Thomas on a screen pass that picked up 11 yards. But the Bulldogs turned the ball over on the next play when Anderson, under heavy pressure, was forced to run the ball and was tackled for no gain on fourth and ten.
Mondovi took control at its own 19 and in short order found the end zone for the first time in the game.
Colton Berg did much of the damage on the six-play drive with runs of nine, 14, and 52 yards, the latter brought the Buffaloes to the Bulldogs’ two-yard line. Mondovi Jake Ede then took the ball across the goal line on the next play with 1:26 left in the third. Ede’s conversion pass to Cody Dregney cut the Buffaloes deficit to three points at 13-10.
Boyceville would call on its defense to preserve the lead in the final quarter.
After taking a Boyceville punt at its 40 early in the final stanza, Mondovi moved into Boyceville territory on a first down run of 18 yards by Brett Bursaw. But three plays later, Boyceville recovered a Mondovi fumble on third down.
A promising drive that included a 21-yard jaunt by McAbee-Thomas quickly ended in a punt after a hold call brought the series to a halt.
Brett Boda’s punt pinned Mondovi on its one. Mondovi did manage a first down but two incompletions followed by a sack put the Buffaloes in a fourth and 12. With time winding down to the two-minute mark, Mondovi went for it but the pass missed its mark and Boyceville took over at the Mondovi 11.
Boyceville pushed the ball to the two before turning it back over on downs with just 1:26 after Mondovi had exhausted its three time outs.
The Buffaloes final chance ended on a Brady Schutts interception as the game clock expired.
Jordan Morse tallied 40 yards rushing on a dozen attempts to compliment McAbee-Thomas’ 193-yard high. Hunter Anderson had an efficient game passing as he finished 4 of 10 for 66 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Four receivers split the catches including Brett Boda’s 33 yarder and Schutts’ 14-yard TD catch.
Colton Berg led the Buffaloes ground game with 104 yards on 14 tries and Jake Ede finished with 57 yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts.
Boyceville held Mondovi to 215 total yards.
Boyceville will host its fourth home game this week when it welcomes Rosholt this Saturday, September 13 at 1:30 p.m. There will be no admission charge to the game as Boyceville celebrates its school centennial and homecoming.