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Park Rapids' Kyle Kanten (28) and Billy Kimball tackled Pequot Lakes' Matt Michaelson (12) during Friday night's game at Vern Weekly Field. (Vance Carlson / Enterprise)

Michaelson leads Patriots past Panthers

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Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Pequot Lakes' Matt Michaelson entered Friday night's football game at Park Rapids with the highest average per rushing attempt among all players in the Heart O'Lakes Conference.

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The senior running back kept his 11.6-yards-per-carry average intact in leading the Patriots to a 39-8 victory in the snow at Vern Weekley Field.

Michaelson rushed 16 times for 191 yards, highlighted by a 92-yard touchdown, as Pequot Lakes compiled 360 yards in offense in improving to 5-1 on the season. The Patriots also used an 80-yard kickoff return and four fumble recoveries to drop Park Rapids to 2-4 on the year.

"Pequot Lakes is a good team, but we made too many mistakes and we didn't execute," said Park Rapids head coach Aaron Morris. "We have the talent, but we're not playing to our potential. We're playing back on our heels and you can't do that against good teams."

The Patriots set the tone for the game when Nick Greer returned the opening kickoff 82 yards to give Pequot Lakes a 7-0 lead just 10 seconds in the game.

Pequot Lakes' defense forced a fumble five plays later, which led to a two-play, 44-yard drive. A 32-yard run by Michaelson set up a 12-yard pass from Cole Engen to David Liedl as the Patriots had a 14-0 lead with 9:16 to play in the first quarter.

A 17-yard run by Dan Pike in a punting formation led to a first down at midfield, but the Panthers were forced to punt.

On Pequot Lakes' second play, Michaelson broke free for a 77-yard touchdown, but that play was called back because of a holding penalty. Park Rapids' defense took advantage of that break two plays later when Dan Ricke recovered a fumble at the Pequot Lakes 30.

The Patriots' defense held and took over at the 40. A 12-play drive followed as Pequot Lakes claimed a 20-0 lead. Michaelson, who had a 12-yard TD run called back because of a holding penalty, rushed five times for 33 yards to spark that 60-yard scoring drive. An 11-yard run by Greer and a facemask penalty aided that drive, which ended with a 1-yard TD run by Cody Chambers with 9:44 to go in the first half.

After the Panthers pinned Pequot Lakes at its own 8 with their second punt of the game, Michaelson sprinted 92 yards to give the Patriots a 26-0 lead with 7:14 remaining in the first half.

Park Rapids lost a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and the Patriots took advantage with a four-play, 44-yard drive. Engen hit Chambers on a 26-yard pass play and rushed 12 yards to set up a 7-yard TD run by Greer. With 5:56 to go before halftime, the Patriots held a 32-0 lead.

The Panthers marched into Pequot Lakes territory on a roughing-the-punter penalty and an 11-yard run by John Drury. But another fumble ended that drive as the Patriots carried a big lead into the intermission.

Pequot Lakes' defense forced another turnover by recovering a fumble at the Park Rapids 30 to start the second half. Four plays later, Greer scored from 12 yards out to give the Patriots a 39-0 lead with 9:04 to play in the third quarter.

After the Panthers were forced to punt, another holding penalty on Pequot Lakes negated a 35-yard TD run by Michaelson. Again the Panthers took advantage of that mistake when Tucker Coborn recovered a fumble at the Pequot Lakes 47 two plays later.

That drive stalled at the Pequot Lakes 40, but the Panthers' defense held and forced Pequot Lakes into a punting situation. A bad snap was recovered by Park Rapids at the Pequot Lakes 24. A 7-yard run by Drury and a 4-yard carry by Coborn set up a 12-yard TD run by Kevin McMorrow. McMorrow ran in the conversion to make it 39-8 with 9:05 to play.

Neither team threatened the rest of the game.

Michaelson, who entered the game with 766 yards and six touchdowns, is second in the conference in rushing with 957 yards. Chambers rushed eight times for 41 yards and Greer scored on all three of his rushing attempts and finished with 35 yards. Engen completed 2 of 3 passes for 38 yards.

The Panthers, who were coming off a 35-0 loss to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, were held to 139 yards in offense with Drury rushing 11 times for 46 yards, McMorrow rushing nine times for 44 yards and Coborn rushing 13 times for 37 yards.

Park Rapids travels to Perham Thursday night for a 7 p.m. kickoff. This will be the Panthers' third straight game against a team ranked in the state polls. D-G-F was rated No. 6 in last week's state Class AA poll while Pequot Lakes and Perham were tied for the No. 10 spot in last week's state Class AAA poll. The Panthers conclude the regular season with a game at Crookston next Wednesday night.

"We're in a tough stretch facing three ranked opponents in a row," said Morris. "We've got to keep our morale up and stay positive."

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