Athlete of the Week: Saint Croix Central football

HAMMOND, Wis. (WEAU) - When Saint Croix Central hits the gridiron you know the brand of football they’re going to bring.

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“I think our run game is pound it down the middle until you can’t anymore,” as Saint Croix Central senior running back Ryan Larson described it. “Then we have a speedy quarterback running around the edges a little bit, and then you got a halfback that can take pitch. So, you got three deadly weapons to an offense. It’s hard to stop and then you’ve got the air. Everything is opened up for the passing game.”

The Panthers aim to possess the ball and wear down opposing defenses. Their rushing attack has recorded almost 4,000 yards this season on nearly eight yards per carry, but it was the big plays that catapulted them to victory last Friday night against Northwestern, 21-6.

“Our motto here is 4+4+4=W,” exclaimed Panthers senior quarterback Austin Kopacz. “I mean we do whatever we can to get that push to get those four yards and get those first downs and eventually leading to a touchdown, but those big plays kind of just happen in the process. I mean they’re nice, but as long as we can just control the clock, get down the field and that’s really our goal here.”

After improving to 12-0, Saint Croix Central is moving on to Level 4 against Little Chute with a chance to reach the state championship game in Division 4 for the third straight year.

“We played them in 2016, which we play them back at Stanley again – so all the same similarities there,” said Saint Croix Central head coach Tony DiSalvo. “We played Freedom last year, so we’re very familiar with the league. They’ll run some spread, but a lot of lead stuff. We’re excited for the opportunity.”

“I know any of these guys including myself would trade any individual or team accolade just for a gold ball,” added Kopacz. “So, I mean an undefeated season would just be a little icing on the cake honestly, but we want to get down to state and win another gold ball - put one in the case.”

The Panthers fell short of winning back-to-back state titles last season. Although the last time they faced the Mustangs in Level 4 they went on to be 2016 state champions. Will history repeat itself Friday night? We’ll have to wait and see.