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Toppers power past Mounders

ELK MOUND — Glenwood City has preferred to throw the football this season in order  to take some of the pressure off its young and inexperienced offensive line and play to the talents of its skilled positions.

Even though it can can be difficult to “change your stripes” so to speak, some times circumstances dictate it.

After playing to an 8-8 tie at the intermission, the Hilltoppers turned to the running game and posted a pair of second half touchdowns including the game clinching score that was reminiscent of the past two seasons “ground and pound” attack for a 22-8 road win over Elk Mound in the team’s Dunn-St. Croix opener.

“Going in we have been throwing the ball quite a bit,” said Shane Strong, Glenwood City head coach. “We told them (kids) at halftime that if we wanted to win this ball game we had to grind some drives out and we needed to be able to run the football and keep Elk Mound’s offense off the field.”

And the Toppers put that advice into practice especially in their final touchdown drive.

Taking off nearly eight minutes of the fourth quarter clock, Glenwood City went 70 yards in 14 plays – all on the ground – as junior back Nate Mrdutt ran seven times for 50 yards including the 14-yard touchdown daggar with 2:32 left in the game.

More than half of Mrdutt’s team leading 93 yards came in that final drive. He also scored the Toppers go ahead TD in the third quarter.

“We were able to do that (run the ball) on that final drive,” Strong stated. “We picked up some big, key third downs and a fourth. I thought Nate Mrdutt really ran with some heart and desire.”

“And our offensive line blocked really well so that was huge,” continued the Toppers’ coach. “Elk Mound was running the ball pretty well on us and making some plays but if they don’t have the ball in their hands, they can’t win.”

The Toppers also proved to be an opportunistic bunch on the defensive side of the ball as it twice intercepted Elk Mound’s quarterback Dane Lew. Nick Schone picked off a deep throw in the first quarter. Then in the third, Todd Petersen tip toed the sidelines to corral another interception that would set up the Toppers for their second and eventual game-winning score.

“Huge, huge play by Nick Schone when he went and made that play on that deep ball and then Petersen, on that sideline play, he kept two feet inbounds and that is just a senior making a big time play,” said Strong.

Glenwood City took the game’s opening kick off and gained three first downs all through runs. But the drive stalled when the Toppers were whistled for a block in the back on a nice nine-yard completion. That put the Toppers in a second and 14. The Mounders sacked GC quarterback Nick Schone for a four-yard loss on the ensuing play and then tipped a third and 18 pass attempt forcing Glenwood City to give up the ball.

Elk Mound took over at its own 25 following the punt. Dane Lew ran a keeper on the Mounders’ first play from the line of scrimmage that gained 12 yards. The Mounders, however, gained just six yards on the next three run plays and had to punt.

Lew had a nice 34 yard punt but GC’s Bill Norenberg returned it 32 yards to the EM 45 to set up the Toppers’ first score.

A short two-yard run by Jake Nelson was followed by an 11-yard toss from Schone to Todd Petersen (senior). Bill Norenberg then had a nice 15-yard run. Nate Mrdutt then ran up the middle for ten yards but fumbled, luckily Todd Petersen was there to cover the loose ball and keep the possesion for GC.

Norenberg would cap the five-play drive with a seven-yard run for the touchdown at 3:08. Mrdutt pounded in the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.

Elk Mound started its second possession of the contest at its 37 following the kick off but had the ball for just one play. Nick Schone intecepted Lew’s long pass down the left sideline as he fell over the Mounder receiver.

The Toppers took over at their own 30 with 2:55 left in the first.

GC would pick up two first downs as Norenberg had runs of seven and eight yards and Hierlmeier caught a 12-yard pass from Schone. But the drive stalled on three straight incompletions to force another Topper turnover. GC was just two plays into the second quarter.

Elk Mound took possession at the 20 following a touchback on the punt.

This would be the Mounders best drive of the game. Lew started it with runs of eight and three yards. Noah Zurbuchen and Hunter Adelman each had runs of three yards. Zurbuchen then carried the ball three straight times for 8, 4, and 30 yards, the later put the Mounders at the Toppers’ 21.

Adelman then ran for four, Zurbuchen for two and Lew for five to set up a first and goal at the 10.

But it looked as if the Hilltoppers would slam the door on a Mounders scoring opportunity as  both Lew and Adelman were stuffed for no gain. On third and 10, Lew threw a quick slant to Cole Tyman for nine yards to the one-yard line. On fourth down, Zurbuchen plowed into the end zone for the score at 4:09. The drive had taken nearly eight minutes off the second quarter clock. Zurbuchen ran in the conversion to tie the score at eight.

GC looked to push in another score on its next possession but the EM defense would stop the Toppers deep in their own territory. On a fourth and two, Schone tried to sweep right but was ushered out of bounds for no gain and the Mounders took over at their own 12 yard line. One play later the game went to intermission.

The Mounders carried the momentum into the second half.

Taking the second half kick, Elk Mound marched downfield quickly and penetrated deep into Toppers’ territory. Faced with a long third and 15 for a first down, Dane Lew took the Mounders airbourne and hit Colin Svee on a go pattern down the right sideline for a 44-yard gain to the Toppers’ 26. The GC defense then stiffened, as Zurbuchen was held for no gain on first down and Ben Mack managed just a yard on the following run. Zurbuchen ran for seven to leave the Mounders with a 4th and two. Lew called his own number but came up a yard short as the Toppers took possession at their own 17.

Elk Mound would never threaten again as it was held to just 82 yards in the entire second half, most of which came that opening drive.

Glenwood City would have to punt after just three plays. Schone’s boot went 29 yards before being downed at the GC 46 to give the Mounders excellent field position. But EM would not keep the ball long as Dane Lew’s first down toss was picked off by the Toppers’ Todd Petersen. Petersen tip toed the sideline to make the interception right at the line of scrimmage before going out of bounds.

The Toppers would capitalize on the opportunity. Overcoming three penalties and converting on a fourth-down play, Glenwood City punched the go ahead score across the goal line with 1:29 left in the third. Mrdutt’s one-yard bull rush and a two-point pass play from Schone to Mitch Hurtgen put the Toppers in front for good, 16-8.

Elk Mound moved to midfield as the third quarter ended. The drive would eventually stall and the Mounders turned the ball over on downs.

GC took the ball at its own 30 with just over 10 minutes to play.

Glenwood City would drive the entire distance – all on the ground – to put the game away with a third touchdown with 2:32 to play. Mrdutt’s 14-yard run up the middle to pay dirt ended the Mounders hopes of a comeback. Jacob Nelson also had four runs for 11 yards and Norenberg had three carries for 14 yards on the drive.

The Mounders went to the hurry up but after one first down, Zurbuchen appeared to have gotten another first down on a fourth and 3 but an official measurement was about a football short.

GC took the ball and three knees to run down clock before punting.

The Mounders had time for one play; a 12-yd. pass to Svee that ended the game.

Norenberg finished with 63 yards and a TD, a nice compliment to Mrdutt’s yardage. Nick Schone went 11-20 for 85 yards with Jacob Hierlmeier catching six for 45 yards and Todd Petersen finished with three for 34 yards.

Noah Zurbuchen led Elk Mound with 108 yards rushing with a touchdown on 17 carries.

Glenwood City, now 3-1, will finally return home after three straight road games to face Colfax in the annual homecoming game this Friday, September 19.