Lakers top Panthers in defensive battle
Containing senior quarterback Michael Herzog was the main mission for the defensive unit of the Park Rapids football team in Friday night’s crucial Heart O’Lakes Conference game against Detroit Lakes at Vern Weekley Field.
Except for a 40-yard run by Detroit Lakes’ all-time leading scorer, the Panthers’ defensive unit met that mission in the first half as the Panthers carried a 7-0 lead into the break.
Except for the first two drives of the second half, Park Rapids’ defense continued to play well. Unfortunately, those first two drives resulted in touchdowns and the Panthers continued to struggle offensively in the second half of games as Detroit Lakes prevailed 14-7 in this battle of state-ranked teams.
There was a lot at stake in this battle of former Mid-State Conference rivals.
Both Park Rapids and Detroit Lakes entered this clash with 3-0 records in the Northern Division of the Heart O’Lakes Conference. Both teams were also looking to remain in the state rankings as the Panthers were rated No. 9 in last week’s state Class AAA poll while Detroit Lakes was rated No. 6 in the state Class AAAA poll.
Despite another strong outing by Park Rapids’ defense, the Lakers were able to extend their winning streak over the Panthers to 18 games in a row while extending their conference winning streak to 13 consecutive games.
“I knew we could play with DL,” said Park Rapids head coach Aaron Morris, whose defense has allowed only 46 points in the last five games. “It was a hard-fought game. Both teams deserved to win. I’m disappointed with the loss, but I’m very proud of the effort the kids put forth.”
Park Rapids’ defensive unit of seniors Kurt Fritze, Nate Rak, Jamie Stewart, Josh Severtson, Noah MacPherson and Drew Bade; juniors Ben Baumgartner, Derek Porozinski, Jon Burlingame and Riley Massie; and sophomores Damion Hanke and Remington Hagan forced two turnovers and stopped two Detroit Lakes drives into Park Rapids territory in holding the Lakers’ explosive offense scoreless in the first half. The Lakers entered this game averaging 36 points a game.
On the opening series of the game, Tyler McCollum hit MacPherson on an 8-yard route and Burlingame rushed three times for 24 yards as the Panthers marched to midfield. That drive stalled and the Panthers were forced to punt.
Herzog found Michael Hermann for a 32-yard gain and followed with an 8-yard run as the Lakers marched to the Park Rapids 25. But the Panthers recovered a fumble on the next play to end that threat.
After Park Rapids was forced to punt again, a bad snap resulted in another fumble that the Panthers recovered at the Detroit Lakes 32. MacPherson’s 3-yard run on third-and-3 and a 10-yard pass from McCollum to Bade on fourth-and-9 led to a first-and-goal at the 9. The Panthers couldn’t finish off that drive as McCollum was sacked on fourth-and-goal at the 6.
Detroit Lakes took over at the 16 and used four carries for 30 yards by Herzog, including a 9-yard gain on fourth-and-1, to reach midfield. However, that drive stalled and the Lakers were forced to punt.
Park Rapids proceeded to convert three fourth-down situations to spark a 16-play, 68-yard scoring drive. MacPherson converted a fourth-and-2 with a 3-yard run on a fake punt for a first down at the Park Rapids 43 before McCollum hit MacPherson on a 28-yard sideline route for a first down at the Detroit Lakes 29. The Panthers faced a fourth-and-10 when the Lakers were called for a 15-yard helmet-to-helmet penalty on a pass play to Severtson. Burlingame then gained 5 yards on fourth-and-2 to the 1 to set up a 1-yard quarterback sneak by McCollum. Jarrett Johnson’s kick gave the Panthers a 7-0 lead with 2:11 to play in the first half. That drive consumed 7:55 off the clock.
The Lakers mounted a threat when Herzog broke free for a 40-yard run to the Park Rapids 32. Severtson then sacked Herzog to end that drive.
McCollum and Bade connected on a 33-yard route as the Panthers drove to the Detroit Lakes 34, but Ryan Cihak intercepted a pass at the 15 to end the half.
“Against a good team, you have to take some risks. We thought we could catch them off guard and get 3 yards (on the fake punt). We were able to put a good drive together,” said Morris. “We could have been up 14-0, but we didn’t capitalize on their turnovers. When a good team turns the ball over deep in their territory, you have to score and we didn’t. Fortunately, our defense made some plays to keep us in the game.”
Detroit Lakes made a key adjustment at halftime and opened the second half by running the ball up the middle. Jarett Nosal followed a 29-yard run with three carries for 13 yards as the Lakers advanced to the Park Rapids 18. Herzog ended the six-play, 65-yard drive with an 18-yard TD run. Luke Payne’s kick tied the game at 7-7 with 9:50 to play in the third quarter. Herzog’s 14th rushing touchdown of the season increased his school record to 288 points.
Park Rapids was forced to punt on the ensuing series and the Lakers took the lead with a six-play, 46-yard drive. Nosal rushed twice for 12 yards and Herzog rushed twice for 10 yards as the Lakers advanced to the Park Rapids 20. Nosal capped off the drive with a 20-yard run. Payne’s kick made it 14-7 with 6:19 to play.
Those two touchdowns gave the Lakers 16 touchdowns in 17 trips inside the opponents’ red zone this season and proved to be enough to maintain an undefeated record.
“We came out flat in the second half and DL came right at us,” said Morris. “The kids didn’t give up. We had some opportunities in the second half, but we couldn’t get it in the end zone.”
On the Panthers’ next series, Bade caught a 13-yard pass, Massie made an 11-yard reception and Baumgartner rushed three times for 12 yards to advance to the Detroit Lakes 41 before that drive stalled.
A 14-yard reception by Andy Harris on third-and-9, a 9-yard run by Forrest Schleske, and four carries for 17 yards by Herzog marched the Lakers to the Park Rapids 21. Two false starts stopped that drive.
After a Park Rapids punt, Burlingame intercepted a Herzog pass at the 21. The Panthers marched to the Detroit Lakes 45 on a 17-yard catch by Bade, a 10-yard catch by Porozinski and a 10-yard run by Baumgartner. But the Lakers recovered a fumble on a backward lateral and took over at their own 47.
Herzog rushed six times for 31 yards and Nosal had a 7-yard carry for three first downs as the Lakers ran out the final 4:18.
The Panthers finished with 232 yards in offense with McCollum completing 10 of 26 passes for 135 yards. Bade caught four passes for 73 yards. Burlingame had 46 yards on 13 carries and Baumgartner had 31 yards on 16 carries for the Panthers, who failed to score in the second half for the fourth time in the last five games.
Herzog completed 4 of 11 passes for 52 yards and rushed 23 times for 161 yards while Nosal gained 97 yards on 15 carries to lead the Lakers, who outscored Park Rapids 569-145 in the previous 17 meetings (including four playoff victories in the late 1980s and 1990s). Park Rapids’ last win over the Lakers was a 10-7 Mid-State Conference victory in 1987. These two teams didn’t play from 2000-2010.
Detroit Lakes improved to 4-0 in the conference and 6-0 overall while the Panthers fell to 3-1 in conference games and 4-2 overall.
The Panthers travel to East Grand Forks Friday night for another conference game. Kickoff in this battle of Section 8AAA teams is set for 7 p.m.
“There are a lot of positives we can take from this loss. I’m very proud that we played DL that tough. It was definitely a step forward,” said Morris. “We have a big game this week. East Grand Forks hasn’t won a game, but we’re not taking them lightly. If we win our last two games, which we should, we’ll be the No. 1 seed in the section.”
Detroit Lakes 0 0 14 0…14
Park Rapids 0 7 0 0...7
PR-McCollum 1 run (J. Johnson kick)
DL-Herzog 18 run (Payne kick)
DL-Nosal 20 run (Payne kick)
First downs 14 16
Rushes-yards 44-247 38-97
Passing 4-11-1 10-26-1
Passing yards 52 135
Total yards 299 232
Penalties-yards 4-30 3-15
Fumbles lost 2 1
RUSHING. Detroit Lakes: Herzog 23-161, Nosal 15-97. Park Rapids: Burlingame 13-46, Baumgartner 16-31, D. Bade 1-7, Severtson 4-6, MacPherson 2-6, McCollum 2-1.
PASSING. Detroit Lakes: Herzog 4-11-1 for 52 yards. Park Rapids: McCollum 10-26-1 for 135 yards.
RECEIVING. Detroit Lakes: Hermann 1-32, Hedstrom 1-14, Nosal 1-7, Paskey 1-(-1). Park Rapids: D. Bade 4-73, MacPherson 2-36, Massie 1-11, Porozinski 1-10, Burlingame 1-4, Baumgartner 1-1.