Hawley takes charge in second half
Park Rapids' no-huddle offense caught the Hawley football team by surprise in the first half of Friday night's Heart O'Lakes Conference season opener at Vern Weekley Field.
The Nuggets weren't surprised at the start of the second half by an onside kick as Hawley took advantage of the ideal field position to dominate the third quarter and break open a scoreless game en route to a 27-6 victory.
Despite committing three turnovers, Park Rapids controlled the first half by running 35 plays for 133 yards while limiting the Nuggets to 25 plays and 111 yards.
The second half was a different story as Hawley compiled 164 yards and scored three touchdowns on its first four possessions while the Panthers were held to 40 yards and were forced to punt three times on their first four possessions.
"We played a very good first half, but we came out flat in the second half," said Park Rapids head coach Aaron Morris. "In the second half, we didn't pick up where we left off. Hawley played more physical than we did. We have to be strong from the start to the finish; not from the start to the end of the first half."
Both teams had scoring chances in the first half, but couldn't capitalize.
Hawley forced the first break of the game with an interception on the Panthers' first play from scrimmage. The Nuggets took over at the Park Rapids 42, but Cory Gartner recovered a fumble at the 21 to end that threat.
Gartner rushed three times for 11 yards and David Dirks rushed twice for 10 yards as the Panthers drove to the Hawley 44. The Nuggets' defense delivered again with a sack as the Panthers were forced to punt.
Jordan Harms hit Ben Ellefson for a 15-yard gain and rushed for 8 yards as the Nuggets reached midfield. Park Rapids' defense stepped up and forced Hawley to punt.
The Panthers put together a 13-play, 78-yard drive behind six carries for 53 yards by Zach Eystad and a 13-yard run by Dirks to the Hawley 3. However, a fumble ended that drive as Hawley regained possession at the 1.
After Chris Buttke's 17-yard run on third-and-7, the Nuggets were forced to punt. Ian Johnson's 19-yard run drove the Panthers to the Park Rapids 46, but Hawley held and took over.
The first half ended with three consecutive turnovers as Noah MacPherson and Gartner intercepted passes for the Panthers while Dalton Leaf picked off a pass for Hawley.
The Panthers tried to catch Hawley off guard at the start of the third quarter by attempting an onside kick. The Nuggets recovered at their own 47 and drove 53 yards in six plays to open the scoring. Ellefson rushed three times for 16 yards and Josh Johnson followed with a 15-yard carry to set up an 18-yard touchdown run by Buttke. Gary Althoff's kick gave Hawley a 7-0 lead with 9:19 to play in the third quarter.
After forcing the Panthers to punt after three plays, the Nuggets put together a five-play, 61-yard drive to pad their lead. Buttke's two carries for 17 yards and a 23-yard run by Alex Ames set up a 15-yard TD run by Ames. Althoff's kick made it 14-0 at the 5:36 mark.
The Panthers gained only 10 yards on its next two possessions, which resulted in two more punts. Hawley then ended the third quarter with a five-play, 43-yard scoring drive. A 19-yard punt return and a 9-yard run by Ames set up a 28-yard TD pass from Harms to Aaron Regnier. Althoff's kick gave Hawley a 21-0 lead entering the final quarter.
Park Rapids used a 15-yard late-hit penalty to reach the Hawley 40, but the Panthers lost possession on downs.
Hawley needed nine plays to score its final touchdown as Leaf's 13-yard run capped a 60-yard drive. With 5:18 to play, the Nuggets held a 27-0 lead.
Tyler McCollum hit Kyle Goplerud on a 44-yard scoring route with 3:05 to play as the Panthers avoided a shutout with a six-play, 62-yard drive.
Hawley, which went 10-1 and reached the Section 8AA championship game last season, finished with 391 yards in offense.
The Panthers compiled 226 yards in offense with Dirks gaining 58 yards on 12 carries and Eystad gaining 58 yards on nine carries.
"I thought we did better with our no-huddle than I expected. We could have been ahead 14-0 at the half, but we made some mistakes," said Morris. "I saw a lot of good things out there. We're only going to get better and better. We can play with anybody on our schedule, but we have to believe."
Hawley 0 0 21 6.....27
Park Rapids 0 0 0 6.....6
H-Buttke 18 run (Althoff kick)
H-Ames 15 run (Althoff kick)
H-Regnier 28 pass from Harms (Althoff kick)
H-Leaf 13 run (run failed)
PR-K. Goplerud 44 pass from T. McCollum (pass failed)
RUSHING. Park Rapids: Dirks 12-58, Eystad 9-58, I. Johnson 9-29, Gartner 7-20, Walsh 1-4.
PASSING: Park Rapids: I. Johnson 2-14-2 for 11 yards; T. McCollum 2-3-0 for 46 yards.
RECEIVING: Park Rapids: K. Goplerud 1-44, Eystad 2-7, MacPherson 1-8.