ELK MOUND — The football game between the host Elk Mound Mounders and Eleva-Strum Cardinals resembled a boxing match with the teams punching and counter-punching the first three quarters.
But in the end, the team with the ball in their hands last came up with the win as the Mounders came from a two-touchdown deficit in the final quarter to take a 32-30 win over the Cardinals.
A week ago, the Mounders came from behind three times in their win over Chetek-Weyerhaeuser and now boast a 2-0 record for the season.
The Cardinals have one of the more potent offenses in the area and are one of the favorites in the Dairyland Conference this year.
Eleva-Strum came out strong, starting a drive at their own 35-yard line and ended it 12 plays, and almost eight minutes later, on a 10-yard run by Riley Weltzein. A two-point run made it 8-0 at the 4:38 mark of the opening quarter.
The counter punch came from the Mounders when they used Noah Zurbuchen and Hunter Adleman to move the ball on the ground from their own 39 to the Cardinal 25, and on fourth and 10, quarterback Dane Lew scampered for a 16-yard run. With nine seconds left in the quarter, Zurbuchen hit paydirt from 10 yards out, then added the two-point run to knot the score at 8-8.
Just 13 seconds into the second stanza, the Cardinals’ Quinn Olson found an opening on the right side and zipped down the sidelines for a 64-yard score and a Dustyn Topper run made it 16-8.
Although Trey Mohr gave the Mounders good field position when he returned the kickoff back to midfield, Cole Tyman had to punt it away.
Elk Mound’s second counter punch started when a Cardinals’ player made an ill-advised attempt to catch Tyman’s deep punt with several Elk Mound players around him, and it bounced off his chest and ended up under an Elk Mound player. On first and goal from the six, Lew found Adleman open for a touchdown and Tyler Sahm added the two-point run to make it 16-16 with 8:51 left in the second quarter.
“That was a huge play for our defense, and scoring right away was even more huge,” coach Dave Lew said. “We had to take advantage of their mistake because they are a good team and we knew they were capable of scoring points very quickly.”
He wasn’t kidding with that comment as on a first down play on their next possession, the Cardinals ran the same play they scored on earlier as Olson took off down the right sideline for a 79-yard score. A two-point pass put them back up by eight at 24-16 at the 8:28 mark of the quarter.
With Zurbuchen on the sidelines due to an illness, the Mounders ended up punting on their next possession and the Cardinals controlled the ball for the next four and a half minutes, moving it inside the Mounder 10-yard line with nine seconds left. Cardinals’ quarterback Jedediah Lorenz left the game with an injury at this point and the half ended when Lew picked off a pass.
After the Mounders were forced to punt on their first possession of the third quarter, E-S added another scoring punch when Jake Matchey ripped off a 54-yard run. The two-point pass attempt fell incomplete however, as Mounder lineman Andrew Benson chased the quarterback down and forced an off balance pass. Little did anyone know those two points would loom big later in the game.
Zurbuchen was back in the game and he kept his feet moving to gain valuable yards, but a fumble on the Mounders next possession ended up in a Cardinal player’s hands.
But Colin Svee and Benson aided the Elk Mound defense by tackling the Cardinals’ runners for loss of yards and the ball was punted back to them.
Elk Mound took over from the E-S 41 and a horse collar penalty on the Cardinals and three running plays by Zurbuchen took the ball to the 15 as the third quarter ended with Elk Mound down 30-16.
Lew completed a seven-yard pass to Adleman, and back-to-back running plays by Zurbuchen resulted in his second score of the game. He rolled in for the two-point conversion and the Mounders were within six points at 30-24 with 10:41 left in the game.
The Cardinals started their next possession at their own 40 when the kickoff went out of bounds, and they picked up three first downs before Hunter Johnson nailed the E-S ball carrier for a 10-yard loss and the Cardinals ended up punting the ball back with 6:00 left in the game.
Starting at their own 11-yard line, the goal line looked a long ways away for the Mounders but they simply kept their nose to the grindstone and moved the ball down field. On a third and 12, Chandler Schreiber ran the ball for the only time all game and zipped for a 20-yard gain. Zurbuchen found a hole on the right side and picked up a big chunk of yards to get the ball to the E-S 28, then ran four more times, advancing the ball to the 10-yard line with 53 seconds left. A penalty on the Mounders moved it back five yards, and with 17 seconds left, a broken play worked in the Mounders favor as Lew found Schreiber in the right side of the endzone for the go ahead touchdown. There was no doubt who was getting the ball for the conversion as Zurbuchen blasted his way up the middle for the two-point lead. Two incomplete passes for the Cardinals in the final seconds ended the game.
“Sometimes you have to have some luck on your side,” coach Lew said, referring to the TD pass to Schreiber. “But both our quarterback and receiver kept their cool and came up with a big play. Our assistant coaches made some adjustments on defense at halftime and that changed things for us. And our linemen decided they were not going to get pushed around any more. They came off the ball hard in the second half and we wore E-S down. It was a great team win against a quality team but we have to keep working hard and carry this momentum over when we start conference play,” he added.
Despite missing part of the second quarter, Zurbuchen rushed for 147 yards while Adleman added 24. Lew completed 6 of 11 passes for 51 yards and ran for 21 yards while Adleman snagged three passes for 19 yards, Schreiber grabbed two for 25 yards and Svee caught one for seven yards.
The Cardinals rushed for 393 yards and passed for 63.
Elk Mound travels to Glenwood City to face the 2-0 Hilltoppers this Friday night.