By Kelsie Hoitomt
HAMMOND — The St. Croix Central Panthers advanced to 5-0 in Dunn-St. Croix Conference after Friday’s 43-12 victory over the Glenwood City Hilltoppers.
The Panthers scored six touchdowns against the Toppers including one on an interception.
The Toppers turned the ball over a total of three times with two in the first quarter and one early in the second.
The game started with Mitch Hurtgen giving the ball the boot on the kick off. The Panthers started on their own 30 and only moved to the 26 before punting on fourth and 13.
Jake O’Meara ran the punt return to the 40, but the second snap ended up fumbled and recovered by Central’s Josh Freyholtz.
This put the Panthers on the right side of the field and in four plays Cody Gostovich was in the end zone for the first touchdown of the game. The kick was no good so the scoreboard read 6-0 at 5:37.
Gostovich’s kick went out of the end zone and resulted in a touch back for the Toppers.
From the 20, they moved up seven yards on a pass completion from Nick Schone to O’Meara.
Schone fired back to throw again, but this time he was met by Connor Rogers. Rogers got ahold of the ball and took off running for another Panther touchdown with 4:57 on the clock now.
Kyle Larson held onto the ball for the quarterback keeper on the two-point conversion play, which put the score at 14-0.
The Toppers following drive resulted in a punt. They were able to stop the Panthers however and force them to punt as well after Joel Ormson blocked a pass on third down.
Jake Nelson returned the punt to the 38 yard line to start the Toppers’ drive. Two passes fell incomplete and then Evan Nielson stepped in front of the ball for an interception.
There was however a flag thrown against Central, which gave the Toppers the ball back and an extra 15 yards.
Schone handed the ball off to Nathan Mrdutt and he picked up a 13 yards gain to give the Toppers their biggest gain of the night.
The possession was cut short however when the pass to Todd Petersen fell into the hands of Ryan Gulich.
The Panthers moved the ball from the Toppers’ 48 to the 19 in just two plays.
The second quarter started with the ball on the 19 and then soon they were on the five yard line.
From there, Gostovich drove in the touchdown run with 8:38 on the clock. He turned around and kicked the extra point, which put the score at 21-0.
The Toppers were again stopped short on their drive when an interception was thrown. This time it was Jason Matteson that caught the pass.
This put the Panthers on the Toppers’ 27. Gostovich ran the ball for the first down at the 15, but the Toppers’ defense kicked in and held them to fourth and two.
The Toppers ended up with the ball back in their possession on downs at the 19, which set them in motion for their longest drive of the night.
From the 19, Billy Norenberg ran to the 26. Then it was Mrdutt with a couple strong carries to get them up the field.
With 1:48 on the clock and the play at fourth down and four to go, the Toppers called a time out.
After the time out, the ball was handed off to Norenberg and he successfully reached the first down.
O’Meara then ran the ball for yet another first down for an 11 yard gain, which put the Toppers on the 42.
With the clock running down from 60 seconds, Mrdutt grabbed three hands off, which pushed the Toppers into Panther territory and gave them another first down.
The clock was however not on their side as it ticked down to zero with Schone in possession of the ball.
After standing high and dry at midfield with no score, the Toppers had redemption on their minds to start the third quarter.
Nelson received the kick off and brought it out to their own 40. Schone then connected with Norenberg to put the ball on the 48.
The Toppers were at fourth and two so they handed the ball to Mrdutt who surged through to get the first down, which put them on the Panther’s 49.
Two passes fell incomplete before Schone hit Petersen up the middle of the field for the first down at the 35.
A penalty was called against Central, which moved the ball up to the 20.
From there, Schone hit Jake Hierlmeier for an 11 yard reception, which put them at the nine. Norenberg cut to the right and headed up field for a four yard gain.
Norenberg’s run set the Toppers in motion for their first touchdown of the game. It was from there that Schone took the snap and fired to Petersen in the end zone for the score.
Their two-point conversion was no good, but at 6:52 the Toppers were on the board 21-6.
The Panthers answered back with their fourth touchdown after Larson connected with Matteson for a 21 yard reception near the two minute marker.
To start the fourth quarter, the Toppers lost possession of the ball on downs so Central started at first and 15 at the 44.
They lost ten yards on another penalty, but quickly shot forward on a run by Larson.
From the 19 yard line, Larson landed a pass to Matteson, which resulted in his second touchdown catch of the game.
Gostovich’s kick was good, which put the score at 35-6 with nine minutes still left to the play in the quarter.
Both teams came up empty on their next possessions, but after the Panther’s punted the Toppers were in the end zone thanks to a 49 yard run by Nelson.
Nelson’s touchdown was the final score for the Toppers at 4:20 in the quarter.
The game ended with Larson running 56 yards to score the Panthers’ final touchdown. Cody Kavitz hit the end zone for the two-point conversion, which cemented the score at 43-12.
The Toppers were in possession of the ball at mid field when the clock ticked to zero.
As a team, the Toppers finished with 129 yards of rushing and 76 in receptions.
Schone completed eight passes with three going to Norenberg for 24 yards and two going to Hierlmeier for 24 yards as well.
Petersen had two catches for 21 yards and Mrdutt caught one pass for seven yards.
On the ground, Mrdutt led the team in rushing yards with 58 on 14 carries. Nelson followed with 56 yards on four carries.
O’Meara finished with 14 yards on four attempts and Hierlmeier had six yards on one carry.
The Panthers ended their night with 241 rushing yards; 113 of which came from Gostovich.
In the air, Larson completed five passes for 60 yards with 40 of them by Matteson.
Next on the schedule with be a home game for the Toppers against Spring Valley this Friday, October 17 starting at 7:00 p.m.
This is the final game of the regular season with the 24th the first night of playoffs.