Panthers pick off first win
Park Rapids' defense redeemed itself in a big way to spoil Pequot Lakes' homecoming game at Pillager Friday night.
After allowing 527 yards and seven touchdowns in a 53-46 loss to Crookston the week before, the Panthers' defense forced eight turn- overs and held Pequot Lakes to only 220 yards and two scores in a 54-12 Heart O'Lakes Northern Division Conference and Section 8AAA victory.
"I knew we could play with them, but I didn't think it would be this kind of a game," said Park Rapids head coach Aaron Morris. "We carried the momentum from the fourth quarter of the Crookston game to this game. We played as a team and things clicked. It was fun to be on the other side of a lopsided score for a change."
The game couldn't have gotten off to a worse start for the Panthers when Pequot Lakes recovered a fumble on the second play of the game.
Pequot Lakes capitalized on the turnover by driving 27 yards in seven plays to open the scoring. Jordan Redmond's 12-yard run on fourth-and-2 set up a 4-yard TD pass from Redmond to Travis Jacobson at the 9:04 mark to open the scoring.
The Panthers would dominate the rest of the game.
On their next possession, the Panthers needed only two plays to cover 68 yards as a 25-yard run by Cory Gartner was followed by a 43-yard TD run by Ian Johnson. Johnson's kick gave the Panthers a 7-6 lead with 8:33 to play in the first quarter.
An interception by Noah MacPherson set up Park Rapids' second touchdown. A 25-yard reception by Kyle Goplerud on fourth down was followed by a 2-yard run by Johnson as the Panthers drove 38 yards in seven plays to take a 13-6 lead at the 5:03 mark.
Gartner recovered a Pequot Lakes fumble at the 48 and the Panthers needed eight plays to pad their lead as Tyler McCollum hit Gartner on a 28-yard TD catch and found Noah MacPherson on the conversion to make it 21-6 with 55 seconds left in the first quarter.
Park Rapids' defense forced three more turnovers on the Patriots' next three possessions with MacPherson intercepting a pass and Kurt Fritze and Rilee Johnson recovering fumbles.
A seven-play, 42-yard drive increased the Panthers' lead to 27-6. David Dirks' 11-yard reception set up a 9-yard TD run by Gartner with 5:54 to play in the first half.
Redmond connected on a pair of throws as Pequot Lakes advanced to the Park Rapids 23, but Zach Eystad's interception at the 8 ended that drive and the half.
Offensively, the Panthers compiled 276 yards in offense in the first half. Park Rapids' defense forced six turnovers and limited Pequot Lakes to 124 yards.
The Panthers forced Pequot Lakes to punt on the opening series of the second half and put together a quick four-play, 75-yard drive to pad the lead. McCollum hit MacPherson on a 10-yard route before connecting with Goplerud on a 60-yard TD pass. Gartner ran in the conversion to give Park Rapids a 35-6 lead with 9:25 to play in the third quarter.
Both teams exchanged punts before Ian Johnson capped a six-play 33-yard drive with an 8-yard TD run. Ian Johnson's kick gave the Panthers a 42-6 advantage at the 3:08 mark.
Josh Severtson followed with a 46-yard interception return as the Panthers led 48-6 with 2:31 to play in the third quarter.
Another interception by Eystad set up the Panthers' final touchdown. Eystad followed a 19-yard run with a 17-yard TD run to push the lead to 54-6 with 25 seconds left in the third quarter.
Pequot Lakes ended the scoring with 9:25 to play on Kyle Narveson's 1-yard run.
The Panthers finished with 471 yards in offense with McCollum completing 11 of 18 passes for 220 yards and Ian Johnson leading a balanced rushing attack with 69 yards on 14 carries. Gartner had 53 yards on 10 carries, Eystad finished with 52 yards on six attempts and Goplerud caught three passes for 120 yards.
Andy Waller, Rilee Johnson and Gartner each forced a fumble while Kody Walsh had a sack to spark the defense.
"Our defense really stepped up," said Morris, whose team improved to 1-3 on the season. "The guys hit hard and played with a lot of intensity. Pequot made some mistakes and we capitalized on them. The kids are gaining a lot of confidence. The kids are determined. They want to win."
The Panthers will be looking to carry that momentum into Friday night's homecoming game against Thief River Falls. Kickoff at Vern Weekley Field has been moved up to 6 p.m.
Park Rapids 21 6 27 0.....54
Pequot Lakes 6 0 0 6.....12
PL-Jacobson 4 pass from Redmond (PAT failed)
PR-I. Johnson 43 run (I. Johnson kick)
PR-I. Johnson 2 run (kick failed)
PR-Gartner 28 pass from T. McCollum (MacPherson pass from T. McCollum)
PR-Gartner 9 run (kick blocked)
PR-K. Goplerud 60 pass from T. McCollum (Gartner run)
PR-I. Johnson 8 run (I. Johnson kick)
PR-Severtson 46 interception return (kick failed)
PR-Eystad 17 run (kick failed)
PL-Narveson 1 run (PAT failed)
RUSHING. Park Rapids: I. Johnson 14-59, Gartner 10-53, Eystad 6-52, J. McCollum 2-17, Olson 3-13, Burlingame 2-13, Baumgartner 4-11, Walsh 3-10. Pequot Lakes: Narveson 12-44.
PASSING. Park Rapids: T. McCollum 11-18-0 for 220 yards. Pequot Lakes: Redmond 9-24-5 for 126 yards.
RECEIVING. Park Rapids: K. Goplerud 3-120, MacPherson 4-38, Gartner 1-28, I. Johnson 2-23, Dirks 1-11. Pequot Lakes: Jacobson 6-86, Northenscold 3-34.