If there is any bright spot to the Elk Mound football team losing their final game of the season, it would be in the fact while losing 51-32 to Dunn St. Croix Conference champions St. Croix Central, they had their highest output of the season scoring wise, which also happened to be the most points scored against the Panthers this year. And in the process, sophomore Noah Zurbuchan, will have his named etched on the plaque in the high school trophy case after reaching the 1,000 yard rushing mark, finishing with 1,051 for the season.
Although the Panthers had secured a playoff berth a few weeks ago, you can bet ending with a perfect record was high on their priority list on this night. The Mounders put a scare in them however, as they responded three times after the Panthers scored to keep things interesting for the first half. Central put the first points up just three minutes into the game on a Cody Gostovich two yard run and his extra point kick, but the Mounders came back to knot it up with Zurbuchen hitting paydirt on a 28 yard run for his first of three TDs of the game and a Cole Tyman kick. Panthers receiver Jason Matteson found his way through the defense for a 71 yard scoring pass from Kyle Larson and another kick made it 14-7 with about three minutes left in the quarter. Zurbuchan answered with his own big play, zipping down the field for 79 yards and the Tyman kick tied it again.But with under a minute to go in the quarter, Central scored on a 26 yard run by Ryan Gulich, and a missed kick ended the stanza with the Mounders down 20-14.
Four minutes into the second quarter, Zurbuchan plowed in from a yard out and the Mounders had a chance to go ahead but the kick was off target.The Panthers then put their nose to the grindstone and in the span of three minutes, they had a 36-20 lead on a rushing touchdown by Gostovich, his two point run, another rushing score from 57 yards by Chris Berg and a two point run by Trent Smith as the half ended.
Starting the second half with the ball, the Mounders saw their hopes of a comeback dashed quickly as they fumbled the ball into the hands of a Panther player who took it to the house from 30 yards out, and with a Smith two point run, Elk Mound was now in a big hole down 44-20. Gostovich tacked on the Panthers final points on a one yard run and his own kick with 7:12 to go in the third quarter.
Hunter Adleman added to the Mounders’ point total when he broke through the Panther defense for a 54 yard score early in the fourth quarter, and with 48 seconds left in the game, freshman Chris Lee put the finishing touches on Elk Mound’s season with a six yard touchdown run.
After averaging 116 yards a game against some pretty stringent defenses this year, Zurbuchan put up 196 yards on the ground in 28 carries against the Panthers. Adleman added 87 yards on six attempts and quarterback Shawn Flynn completed 2 of 5 passes, both to Tyman for 18 yards.
“Our boys played hard all season and never gave up in any game,” coach Dave Lew said. “We met some adversity this year with key injuries but still persevered and played hard every week.”