By Kelsie Hoitomt
HAMMOND – The Bulldogs were on St. Croix Central’s gridiron Friday night for a conference showdown that ended 24-6 in the Panthers’ favor.
The game lasted two days due to a storm front that moved through Friday night around 8:30 p.m. It was nearly 10:00 p.m. when officials decided the lightning wasn’t going to end anytime soon so the game was moved to 1:00 p.m. the following day.
The Panthers received the ball to start the contest, but their possession was quickly shut down after Tyler Stroo jumped in front of the ball for an interception.
This seemed to be a good sign as to how the game would go, but soon the tides would turn back to Central’s favor.
The Bulldogs’ first drive of the game was a lengthy one that started on their own 41 yard line and ended with the ball resting on three yards in front of the goal line.
Their fourth down attempt was unsuccessful by nearly a foot, which gave the ball to the Panthers.
The Panthers carried the ball out to the 28 and then a flag was thrown, which backed them up five yards and forced them to punt.
At the start of the second quarter, the Bulldogs returned the ball to the 43 and a throw from Hunter Anderson to Mitch Leach for 16 yards set them up with a first down on their third down attempt.
Leach caught another reception and then Logan McAbee-Thomas ran for seven yards to put the ball on Central’s 30 for a first down.
The Panthers defense put too much pressure on Anderson and soon they were facing fourth down with ten yards to go.
The fourth down play failed and the Panthers were given ball on downs at their own 29.
Again another drive was unsuccessful as the Panthers took over on the 29 and moved the ball to Boyceville’s 24 before two passes by Kyle Larson fell incomplete and the ball was turned over.
The Bulldogs took over on downs at the 24 and moved up the 30 on a run by McAbee-Thomas before the defense took down Anderson and forced the punt again.
With 1:57 left in the second quarter, the Panthers returned the ball to the 48 and then Chris Berg cut to the side for a big gain that put them on the 25.
The clock was running under a minute when Larson connected with Josh Freyholtz for a 15 yard touchdown run. Larson held onto the ball for the two-point conversion to put the score at 8-0.
Before the half ended, the Bulldogs returned the ball to the 45 and Justin Schulz helped lead the way, but a mishap during the tackle had him gushing blood from his face.
He was sent off to the hospital for stitches and Alex Lovett was sent out to fill in on the line.
A flag was thrown pushing the Bulldogs back five yards and then Anderson was taken down at the 40 to end the half.
The third quarter started with the Bulldogs back in possession of the ball. However the rain started to pour and at 9:42 the players were sent inside due to lightning.
This would spark the long delay and send the game into Saturday.
On Saturday, the weather was much nicer with a sunny, clear sky and a slight breeze.
Play resumed with the clock set at 9:42 and the ball on the 31 yard line on a first down and ten to go for the Bulldogs.
The overnight break didn’t seem to hinder the Panthers any as they took down Anderson for a loss of five yards. The defense stopped the following two plays for a no offensive gain, which brought out the punt team.
The Panthers started on their own 18 and worked their way up to the 39 before they were also forced to punt.
That punt put the Bulldogs on their own 38. A loss of two yards and an incomplete pass had them looking at third down and 12.
Anderson was then able to connect with Brady Schutts near the right sidelines for a gain of 30 yards and a first down.
The next three plays fell incomplete and the Panthers were given the ball on downs.
They started on the 34 and in three plays, their option to the left side of the field proved to be effective once again as Ryan Gulich hit the end zone for a 63 yard touchdown run.
Trenton Smith carried in the conversion to put the score at 16-0 with 49 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs had the ball on the 50 yard line when the fourth quarter started. McAbee-Thomas picked up a four yard gain and then the ball was intercepted.
This set the Panthers on the 16 and soon they were up to the 43 after an option play by Gulich cruised past the Bulldogs again.
They were held up this time however by the Bulldogs’ defense so after a flag and a failed attempt on fourth down, the ball was back in Boyceville’s hands.
They took over on the 29 and Anderson moved the ball to the 48 on a keeper run down the side of the field.
He then hit Leach for a gain that put them into Panther territory. A flag was thrown however and the Bulldogs were pushed from the 45 back to the 50.
With it third down and eight, the Panthers were penalized and the Bulldogs were given new life with a first down on the 40.
Anderson took the snap and scrambled to the side where he found Boda for a gain that put them on the 24.
Then it was McAbee-Thomas with the carry and he pushed his way to the five yard line and then to the three.
Those two plays allowed Anderson enough room to carry the ball into the end zone himself for their first and only score of the game.
The conversion play was unsuccessful, which put the score at 16-6 with 3:05 left to play.
Jake Lake booted an onside kick in attempt to get the Bulldogs the ball back, but the Panthers scooped it up on the 49.
The ball was fumbled for a ten yard loss but an apparent personal foul was made and the Panthers were given 15 yards back.
Gulich took the hand off for the option play and another personal foul was called, which put them on them on the ten yard line now.
Again the flags flew for a third call on Boyceville and the Panthers were now on the one yard line. Trenton Smith stretch the ball across the goal line for the final touchdown of the game.
Larson carried the ball for the two-point conversion to set the final score at 24-6 with 49 seconds left to play.
The game ended with the Panthers recovering a fumble and Larson took a knee for the win.
All together Central had 271 yards rushing and 27 yards receiving with Gulich leading the way with 145 total yards.
The Bulldogs finished with 201 offensive yards including 103 passing and 98 rushing.
Anderson completed six passes out of 16 attempts for the 103 yards that were caught by Boda for 39, Schutts for 33 and Leach for 31.
McAbee-Thomas led in rushing with 74 yards and then Anderson himself followed with 21. Sam Hellmann finished with 14 yards and Jordan Morse had six.
Next up for the Bulldogs is a home game against Spring Valley this Friday, September 26 with kick off at 7:00 p.m.