By Cara L. Dempski
GRANTSBURG — When you see them on the field, it is hard not to think of high school football players as grown young men, with adult thoughts and feelings.
It is not until you see those same players with tears in their eyes after losing the first state quarterfinal football contest the school has played in 13 years, that you suddenly remember they are still kids.
That is how it was watching the Elk Mound football team fall further and further behind Grantsburg in the second half of the pair’s WIAA Division 5 level 3 contest played November 3 on the Pirates’ home field, before finally succumbing to the cold, snowy conditions and the Pirates onslaught, 40-7, to be eliminated from further tournament play.
But, as with any other resilient young person, the Mounders did not wallow in their sadness for too long.
After gathering to speak with coach Dave Lew and honor the people who have assisted them all season, the Elk Mound boys greeted their families and friends, waiting with hugs and positive words, before the seniors got together for one last photo.
And that is when the snowball fight started, because a fresh snowfall is one of the best ways to start mending a broken heart.
Coach Lew acknowledged the loss as a tough one, but knows he has plenty of talent coming up to keep the program going for years to come.
“That’s the way it is,” he started. “We were anticipating a good football game, and that’s a great football team. Did we play our best football game of the year? No. Did the kids fight to the end? Yes.”
Lew professed pride in this year’s Elk Mound team, who went 6-0 in the conference to picked up the Dunn-St. Croix championship for the first time since 2012 before playing to the level-three contest in Grantsburg last Friday night.
“Five years ago we won one game,” Lew explained. “The seniors have set a platform the past few years. They believe in the system, and they have nothing to hang their heads about. I’ve got a good football team.”
The Pirates won the toss and elected to defer until the second half, putting Elk Mound in the unusual position of having the ball first in the game. The Mounders were not able to get far, and ended the first possession with a punt.
Grantsburg quarterback Luke Anderson connected with Badgers’ preferred walk-on John Chenal just three plays later for a 63-yard touchdown run. Jared Van Watermuelen’s kick sailed wide right, to leave the Pirates up 6-0 with 9:45 to play in the first quarter.
The Mounders got on the board less than a minute later when Brady Redwine punched in from a yard out for the score. Gaelen Young split the uprights with his kick, and Elk Mound took over the lead 7-6 with 8:54 still to play.
After that, the game belonged to the Pirates.
Grantsburg put up another six points on a 47-yard jaunt by John Chenal with 2:19 left before halftime to take a 12-7 lead into the break.
The Pirates then pounded the Mounders throughout the third and fourth quarters, scoring a pair of touchdowns in each of the remaining two periods, while leaving little space for Redwine to move the ball ahead.
The scoring turned into a family affair for the Pirates’ Chenal family.
Leo Chenal, who will also play for Wisconsin after receiving a scholarship offer, scored on a three-yard run and a five-yard pass from Anderson in the third quarter and capped the scoring with a final touchdown run at 5:30 of the fourth.
Younger sibling Gabe Chenal hauled in 24-yard TD pass from brother John to open the fourth quarter.
The result was a 40-7 loss on one of the first cold, snowy nights of the year.
John Chenal led all rushers with 131 yard on 19 carries while Leo Chenal tallied 72 yards and two scores on just five carries as Grantsburg out ran Elk Mound 228 to 127 yards, 111 of which went to Redwine who was held well below his season average on his 27 attempts.
Dylan Black finished 3-of-5 passing for 29 yards on the cold and snowy evening. Luke Anderson went 3-of-9 for 97 yards and two touchdowns and John Chanel made good on his only attempt for the 24 yard strike to Gabe Chenal.
The Division 5 quarterfinal game was the furthest Elk Mound has gone in playoffs since 2004, and is a far cry from the single victory the team picked up five years ago.
The Mounders will say goodbye to seniors Dylan Black, Jaylen Emberson, Ben Lambele, Christopher Lee, William Muzynski, Bryce Kasper, Conner Mavis, Aric Jensen, Brandon Gilbertson, Blake Rosenthal and Tyler Brantner. Lew’s Elk Mound squad will retain a group of 15 juniors on the varsity squad for 2018.
The Mounders finished the season 9-3 overall.
ELK MOUND 7, GRANTSBURG 40
Elk Mound……………7 0 0 0 — 7
Grantsburg……………6 6 14 14 — 40
G — J. Chenal 63-yd. pass from L. Anderson (Van Watermuelen kick fails), 9:45; EM — B. Redwine 1-yd. run (G. Young kick), 8:54.
G — J. Chenal 47-yd. run (conversion fail), 2:19.
G — L. Chenal 3-yd. run (L. Anderson run), 8:30; G — L. Chenal 5-yd. pass from L. Anderson (conversion fails), 5:07.
G — G. Chenal 24-yd. pass from J. Chenal (conversion fails), 10:48; G — J. Chenal run (L. Chenal run), 5:30.
Passing (att-comp-int-yds): EM (5-3-2-29) — D. Black 5-3-2-29; G (10-4-0-121) — L. Anderson 9-3-0-97, J. Chenal 1-1-0-24.
Rushing (att-yds): EM (33-127) — B. Redwine 27-111, C. Lee 1-13, W. Muzynski 3-11, B. Lambele 1-(-2), D. Black 1-(-6); G (35-228) — J. Chenal 19-131, L. Chenal 5-72, B. Roufs 7-14, L. Anderson 3-10, L. Miller 1-1.
Receiving (rec-yds): EM (3-29) — A. Benson 1-26, W. Muzynski 2-3; G (4-121) — J. Chenal 2-92, G. Chenal 1-24, L. Chenal 1-5.