St. Croix Central (11-3) was crowned champion in Division 4 following a 49-28 win over River Valley in the final at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis.
The 77 points scored by the two teams combined set a Division 4 State final record.
The Panthers took the opening kickoff and drove 78 yards in 15 plays, scoring on an 8-yard run by Cole Refsnider to go up 7-0. In the second quarter, the Panthers took control of the game on a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs by Ryan Larson to lead 21-0 at the half.
The Blackhawks received the second half kickoff and drove 69 yards to cut their deficit to 21-6 on a 22-yard scoring pass from Elijah Alt to Derek Wedige. However, the Panthers answered with Larson’s third rushing touchdown of the game, a 3-yard effort with just under three minutes to play in the third quarter. River Valley scored before the end of the quarter on a 2-yard run by Alt. With the successful two-point conversion, the Blackhawks trailed 28-14.
Cole Refsnider raced 64 yards to the River Valley 1-yard line to set up Larson’s fourth short rushing touchdown of the game and expand the Panthers’ lead to 35-14. The four scoring runs tied a Division 4 State finals record. A fumble on the ensuing kickoff recovered by St. Croix Central set up an 11-yard jaunt by Refsnider to give St. Croix Central a 42-14 lead.
In the shadows of its own end zone, River Valley responded on its next drive with the longest pass play in Division 4 history as Alt connected with Wedige again for a 94-yard touchdown pass play to make the score 42-21.
The Panthers added another score on a 9-yard Collin Nelson run with just over four minutes remaining in the game, and the Blackhawks capped the scoring with a 13-yard pass from Alt to Ryan Wickman.
Larson shouldered much of the workload for the Panthers, rushing 41 times for a game-high 158 yards, and Refsnider rushed for 153 yards in 15 carries. St. Croix Central rushed for 371 yards as a team and attempted just one pass, which was incomplete. The Panthers scored touchdowns on seven of their nine possessions in the game and held a 34:38 to 13:00 advantage in ball possession.
Elijah Alt spearheaded the Blackhawk offensive attack, completing 13-of-38 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns. He also led the team in rushing with 57 yards and a touchdown. Wickman had a game-high 13 tackles for the Blackhawks.
St. Croix Central wins its second State championship in its second championship game appearance. They won the Division 5 title in 1988. River Valley finishes runner-up in its first-ever appearance in the final.