Bittner powers Pirates past Panthers
Aaron Morris knew the keys for the Park Rapids football team against Crookston Friday night were to limit turnovers and contain quarterback Mark Bittner.
The Panthers could do neither.
In the Pirates' first two games, Bittner rushed 34 times for 187 yards and completed 24 of 47 passes for 296 yards and two TDs in a pair of losses.
Friday night at Vern Weekley Field, Bittner rushed for 165 yards and two TDs and threw for 72 yards and another score in leading the Pirates to a 44-6 victory. Crookston also forced three turnovers and recovered a bad snap on a punt to prevail in this battle of previously winless Section 8AAA and Heart O'Lakes Conference rivals.
"We had to contain (Bittner) to have a chance to win. We made some mental mistakes and missed a lot of tackles and they took advantage," said Morris, whose team fell to 0-3 on the season. "We played an excellent first quarter, but we didn't play well the other three quarters. They capitalized on our mistakes and we didn't take advantage of our opportunities. We didn't play as well as we could have played."
The Panthers opened the game in impressive fashion when quarterback Ian Johnson broke free for a 59-yard touchdown run on the fifth play from scrimmage. That gave Park Rapids a 6-0 lead just 1:50 into the game.
Crookston responded with an impressive drive by marching 62 yards in eight plays. Bittner rushed for 28 yards and hit Tim Desrosier on a 26-yard pass as the Pirates drove to the 15. But the Panthers' defense held and Park Rapids took over at its own 10.
After forcing the Panthers to punt, Crookston put together another threat, but a 21-yard pass play from Bittner to Austin Proulx to the 8 was called back on a motion penalty. The Pirates lost possession on downs at the 32.
Both teams exchanged punts before Crookston's defense produced the first big play of the night when Proulx intercepted a pass near midfield and returned it 53 yards for a score. Anthony Caputo's kick gave the Pirates a 7-6 lead with 10:25 to play in the first half.
A 43-yard run by Colin Vaadeland gave the Panthers a first down at the Crookston 31. However, that drive stalled four plays later.
Park Rapids' defense forced a turnover when Nick Belfiori recovered a fumble near midfield. The Panthers couldn't take advantage of that break as Crookston regained possession at its own 45.
The Pirates scored 17 points in the final 5:49 of the first half to take control.
Bittner's 50-yard TD run and Caputo's kick made it 14-6 at the 4:56 mark.
On the ensuing series, the Pirates recovered a fumble at the Park Rapids 30 and scored with 1:58 to play for a 21-7 lead. Bittner's 10-yard run and Josh Edlund's 14-yard run set up a 3-yard TD run by Edlund.
The Panthers were forced to punt on the next series and the Pirates drove 62 yards in five plays in the final minute to set up a 23-yard field goal by Caputo as the first half expired. Bittner hit Proulx for gains of 13 and 9 yards before hooking up with Edlund on a 46-yard gain to the 6. Caputo's kick gave the Pirates a 24-6 cushion at the break.
Crookston opened the second half by scoring on its first two possessions to seal the outcome.
Bittner opened the second half with a 67-yard TD run and the Pirates regained possession by forcing the Panthers to punt. A bad snap was recovered by Crookston at the Park Rapids 24.
An 18-yard run by Proulx set up a first down at the 6. After a holding penalty, Bittner found Desrosier on a 17-yard scoring strike as the Pirates held a 37-6 lead with 5:28 to play in the third quarter.
The Pirates' defense forced another turnover by recovering a fumble, but Kyle Kanten's interception in the end zone prevented Crookston from padding its lead.
Crookston concluded the scoring on its next possession with an eight-play, 58-yard drive. Ryan Bittner rushed three times for 20 yards, Alex Boone had a 10-yard run and Isaac Morales had a 15-yard run to set up a 5-yard TD run by Boone with 6:38 to play.
Edlund added 88 yards on 11 carries as the Pirates finished with 452 yards in total offense.
The Panthers were held to 144 yards in offense with Johnson rushing five times for 69 yards and Vaadeland gaining 49 yards on nine carries.
"If we could have made a couple more plays early, it would have made a big difference," said Morris, whose team travels to Pequot Lakes for another conference and section game this Friday night. "We have the talent to go on a winning streak. The kids can play. They just have to believe they can win."
PR-Johnson 59 run (kick failed)
C-Proulx 53 interception return (Caputo kick)
C-M. Bittner 50 run (Caputo kick)
C-Edlund 3 run (Caputo kick)
C-Caputo 23 FG
C-M. Bittner 67 run (Caputo kick)
C-Desrosier 17 pass from M. Bittner (kick failed)
C-Boone 5 run (Caputo kick)
RUSHING. Crookston: M. Bittner 9-165, Edlund 11-88, Proulx 2-20, R. Bittner 3-16, Edevold 6-16, Boone 2-15, Morales 1-15. Park Rapids: Johnson 5-69, Vaadeland 9-49, Pike 10-24, Steffen 1-2, Dirks 1-0, Drury 7-(-1), Eystad 2-(-2).
PASSING. Crookston: M. Bittner 5-10-0 for 72 yards; Klatt 1-3-0 for 23 yards; R. Bittner 0-1-0 for 0 yards; Proulx 0-1-0 for 0 yards. Park Rapids: Johnson 1-10-1 for 3 yards.
RECEIVING. Crookston: Desrosier 2-40, Proulx 2-23, Edlund 1-26, Hermreck 1-6. Park Rapids: Vaadeland 1-3.