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Glenwood City begins conference play with loss to Elk Mound

GLENWOOD CITY — When the Glenwood City football team hosted Elk Mound Sept. 4, both teams had a record of 2-0 with the wins against non-conference opponents. Knowing the number of conference wins determine whether you make playoffs or not, you can bet both teams wanted this first one. In the end, it was the Mounders pounding ground game and big defensive plays that decided the game as they shut the Hilltoppers out 23-0.

Elk Mound took the opening kickoff to their own 28 but after eight plays were forced to punt. The Toppers put a drive together, starting at their own 24 yard line and moving to the Mounder 47 with help by two first down runs by Nathan Mrdutt. But their drive stalled and they punted the ball back. After allowing the Mounders to complete a first down pass, Jacob Kopacz dropped Elk Mound’s powerful running back Noah Zurbuchen for a three yard loss on third and 10 and the ball was booted back to the Toppers. Starting on their own 39, Jacob Nelson and Nick Schone carried the ball once and on third down and four, Mrdutt bulled his way for four yards and another first down as the quarter ended at 0-0.

Three plays netted a ten yard loss however, and the ball went back to the Mounders on another punt by Schone who pinned the Mounders back on their own 15. Knowing the key to keeping the Mounders off the scoreboard is holding Zurbuchen in check, the Toppers defense stopped him once for a two yard gain but on third and three, Zurbuchen broke a tackle in the middle of the line and burst down the left sideline for a 77 yard touchdown run. Zurbuchen then banged his way through the middle for the two point conversion and an 8-0 Mounder lead with 8:58 left in the half.

“We had a breakdown on that one play and against a team like Elk Mound you can’t do that,” Topper coach Shane Strong said. “We had been keeping their running game in check until that run.”

Glenwood went three and out on their next possession but their punt attempt was fumbled and Elk Mound took over on the Topper 23. After Zurbuchen ran for an 11 yard gain, the Topper defense came up with a huge stand as they shut him down three times, the last time on fourth and seven as Marcus Ullom stopped him for only a two yard gain.

Taking over deep in their own territory with 5:07 showing on the clock, the Toppers shot them selves in the foot with a penalty for having too many players on the field, and after the third quarterback fumble on the snap of the game, it was second and 13 from the three. But a nine yard pass completion and a four yard run by Mrdutt took them out of the hole. Nelson found an open hole for a 16 yard gain and Kopacz broke off an 11 yard run to get the ball to midfield with 1:33 to go in the half. On fourth and one, Mrdutt gained four yards for the first down, Kopacz tacked on yardage with runs of seven and four yards but four straight plays gained just two yards as two pass attempts were knocked down by Mounder defenders. The half ended with the Toppers down by just eight points.

The Toppers moved the second half kickoff from their own 40 to the Mounders’ 39 but were forced to punt on fourth and 15. But four plays later, Nelson was in the right place at the right time as he picked off a pass thrown by Dane Lew and returned it to midfield. The offense was stifled yet again however and they returned the ball to Elk Mound on a punt. The defense allowed Elk Mound to move the ball downfield and with the ball on the Glenwood 23, the third quarter ended with the same 8-0 score.

The Topper D held again as Nelson broke up a fourth down pass to get the ball back. After a fourth down pass to Nelson gained 16 yards, Schone went to the well too many times and threw an interception which was taken to the house by Colin Svee from 63 yards out. Another Zurbuchen run made it 16-0 with 5:28 to go in the game.

Needing to score points quick, the Toppers went to the air and Jacob Logghe’s pass was picked off. The Mounders kept the ball on the ground with Tyler Sahm scoring from 20 yards out and a Lew kick made it 23-0. Both teams finished the final 1:39 with their reserve players.

“We knew we had to play a flawless game to beat them,” Strong said. “We were outplayed physically on the line and had too many mental mistakes on offense,” he added.

The Toppers collected 183 yards on the ground with Kopacz running for 52 on seven carries and Mrdutt ran seven times for 47 yards. Schone was 3 for 9 passing for 46 yards with Nelson snaring one for 24 yards.

The Toppers travel to Colfax to face the 0-3 Vikings this Friday night while Elk Mound will host Flambeau.