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ELK MOUND — It wasn’t the ending Elk Mound players or fans expected when the Mounders headed into the 2019 WIAA football playoffs at home last Friday evening.
The number 5-seeded Saints of St. Croix Falls showed they were more than ready to take on host and 4th seed, Elk Mound in the WIAA Division 5, level one football playoff contest played October 25.
The Saints were able to hold senior Blaze Todd and the vaunted Mounders’ rushing attack in check for much of the game while cranking out a hefty 373 yards on the ground to upended Elk Mound, 35-21, bring an all-to-sudden end to the Mounders’ most recent gridiron campaign.
Todd finished with 28 carries for 128 yards on the ground and two of Elk Mound’s three touchdowns in the contest. The Mounders, unfortunately, were unable to stop St. Croix Falls’ ground attack which featured five runners that finished with nearly 50 yards or more highlighted by 114 yards from Derek Fisk and another 88 yards and three touchdowns by bruising fullback Calan Leahy including two in the decisive second quarter of play.
“I’m very proud of this group of men,” said Mounders’ head coach Dave Lew following the season-ending loss. “We made many great memories together and shared a lot of laughs along the way.”
The Saints will move on to tangle with top-seed and unbeaten Northwestern, a 41-0 winner over Nekoosa, in a level two contest this Friday, November 1. Meanwhile, Elk Mound will hang up the pads and helmets for the season after finishing 6-4 and begin preparing for next year’s debut in the Cloverbelt Conference.
It took St. Croix Falls all of a minute and a half to get the ball into the end zone in last Friday’s playoff opener Caleb Steffen rumbled 58 yard for the score at 9:35. The Point After Touchdown (PAT) kick attempt went wide, but the scoring play would set the tone for the rest of the evening.
But, it took little time for Elk Mound to answer back, 14 seconds to be exact, as Blaze Todd scooped up the Saints’ kick off and returned it 96 yards for six points. Gaelen Young followed with a successful PAT to give the Mounders a one-point lead.
The first quarter continued to be a back-and-forth affair.
Dayo Oye scored St. Croix Falls’ second touchdown of the evening with a 38-yard run at 7:38. The Saints’ K. Bents added the kick for a 13-7 lead.
Four and a half minutes later, Chase Rhude tossed a 41-yard scoring pass to Ben Heath that knotted the game momentarily until Young’s kick gave the Mounders a 14-13 advantage.
It would stay that way until 9:24 of the second quarter when Calan Leahy busted up the middle for a 7-yard touchdown run. The extra point kick went through the uprights to give the Saints a 20-14 lead. Leahy would take the ball across the goal line six minutes later on nifty 42-yard jaunt and coupled with another extra point kick giving St. Croix Falls a 27-14 halftime lead.
By the end of the first half, the Mounders were feeling the effects of a tough Saints defense. Rhude was slow to get up several times after being run over and knocked down.
“St. Croix Falls was a good football team and more physical than we were Friday night,” Lew said. “It is always sad and emotional after the season as our seniors said goodbye and led us off our field.”
Blaze Todd had a mere 34-yards in 11 carries at the half, which is uncharacteristic of the senior who is fifth in the state with yards per game averaging at 186.5.
Todd is also listed as number one in touchdowns with 33, and fourth in rushing yards with 1,865.
Elk Mound was forced to go to a passing game which was heavily relied upon as quarterback Chase Rhude went 16-of-23 for a total of 219 yards.
Neither squad scored in the third quarter but St. Croix Falls turned the numbers on its side of the scoreboard just five second in to the final quarter on a five-yard touchdown by Leahy and a two-point conversion run that upped the Saints advantage to 35-14.
Nate Lew had two big catches for Elk Mound to help set up the Mounders’ final touchdown of the evening and season. Lew also had seven total tackles which caused a loss in yardage for the Saints.
The final score for Elk Mound came from a four-yard dash by Todd at the 7:30 mark and a successful PAT by Young made the score 35-21.
But Elk Mound could get no closer as St. Croix Falls’ defense shut down all hope for the Mounders when Chase Rhude threw an interception in the remaining minutes of the game.
Michael Jenson led the Mounders in receptions and yards with six catches for 75 yards, and had four tackles on defense.
Gabe Moschkau led the defense with ten tackles, followed by Ethan Levra with nine and Chase Rhude with seven.
“I am very proud of this team, coaches, great fans and community for supporting us all year long,” Lew stated.
Elk Mound.……..14……0……0…..7 – 21
St. Croix Falls…..13…..14…..0……8 – 35
SCF – 58-yard rushing TD by C. Steffen (PAT unsuccessful) 9:35
EM – 96-yard kickoff return TD by B. Todd (G. Young kick) 9:21
SCF – 38-yard rushing TD by D. Oye (PAT good) 7:38
EM – 41-yard reception TD by B. Heath from C, Rhude (G. Young kick) 3:14
SCF – 7-yard rushing TD by C. Leahy (PAT good) 9:24
SCF – 42-yard rushing TD by C. Leahy (PAT good) 3:28
SCF – 5-yard rushing TD by C. Leahy (2-point conversion good) 11:55
EM – 4-yard rushing TD by B. Todd (PAT good) 7:30
Passing (att-comp-yds-int): EM (23-16-219-1) C. Rhude 23-16-219-1.
Rushing (att-yds): EM (32-132) C. Rhude 4- -6, B. Todd 28-128; SCF (49-373) C. Leahy 7-88, Z. Clark 1-3, D. Oye 2-47, D. Fisk 17-114, M. Erickson 13-73, A. Will 4-1, C. Steffen 5-57.
Receiving (att-yds): EM (216-219) B. Heath 3-53, N. Lew 4-71, B. Todd 1-11, M. Jenson 6-75, E. Levra 1-4, E. Johnson 1-5.