Panthers put in overtime in opener
Aaron Morris put in long hours preparing the Park Rapids football team for its season opener against Wadena-Deer Creek Friday night.
It was only fitting that Morris' first game as the Panthers' head coach went into overtime.
John Drury's 9-yard run on first down in overtime set up Kevin McMorrow's game-winning 1-yard TD plunge as Park Rapids prevailed 13-7 at Wadena.
"It's nice starting out on a positive note with a win," said Morris. "We had some first-game jitters, but the guys did what they needed to do to win the game."
While the game ended on a positive note for the Panthers, it didn't start that way.
After being stopped on the first series of the game, Danny Pike went back to punt. A bad snap gave W-DC possession at the Park Rapids 27.
Park Rapids' defense stepped up and the Panthers regained possession when Jake Grimes sacked quarterback Kevin Tumberg on fourth-and-1 at the 18.
The Panthers put together a drive, marching to the W-DC 34 before being stopped on downs. A 34-yard run by Drury was negated by an illegal block, but the Panthers used five carries by Tucker Coborn for 20 yards and four rushes by Drury for 20 yards to advance into Wolverines' territory before the 14-play drive stalled.
W-DC responded with a nine-play, 65-yard drive. Aaron Kern's 16-yard run, 32-yard catch and 17-yard run led to a first-and-goal at the 1. Park Rapids' defense held and the game stayed scoreless when Ken Sakry missed a 17-yard field goal.
A 21-yard reception by Coborn, a 9-yard run by Drury on fourth-and-2 at the W-DC 41, and a 12-yard catch by McMorrow on fourth-and-5 at the W-DC 27 gave the Panthers a first down at the Wolverines' 15. But that drive was stopped when the Wolverines recovered a fumble at the 8.
After forcing W-DC to punt, the Panthers capped off a short drive to open the scoring. A 21-yard punt gave Park Rapids possession at the W-DC 25. A 9-yard run by Drury was followed by a 14-yard TD pass from Pike to Coborn. Coborn kicked the extra point and the Panthers had a 7-0 lead with 2:33 to play in the first half.
Tumberg intercepted a Pike pass at the W-DC 20 to stop another Park Rapids drive to end the half.
W-DC controlled the second half by holding Park Rapids' offense to only three first downs while putting together two long drives.
At the start of the second half, the Wolverines drove 58 yards in 10 plays. A 34-yard run by Josh Sherman was the key play in that drive, which stalled at the Park Rapids 22.
Each team exchanged punts before W-DC tied the game with a 14-play, 81-yard drive. Jordan Rentz's 19-yard catch, a 17-yard run by Kern on a fake punt and a 12-yard catch by Logan Meyer set up a 3-yard TD pass from Tumberg to Meyer. Sakry's extra-point kick tied the game at 7-7 with 7:56 to play.
Park Rapids responded when Coborn's 21-yard kickoff return to the 44 and McMorrow's 18-yard reception led to a first down at the W-DC 37. That drive stalled at the 33.
Tumberg intercepted another Pike pass on the Panthers' next series as the game remained tied at the end of regulation.
W-DC's first possession in overtime ended when Kyle Kanten intercepted a Tumberg pass on third down.
Drury and McMorrow ended the game to give Morris his first win as head coach.
The Panthers finished with 194 yards in total offense with Drury leading the way with 66 yards on 17 carries. Pike completed 5 of 17 passes for 70 yards with Coborn catching two passes for 35 yards and McMorrow catching two passes for 30 yards.
"I was satisfied with our offense," said Morris. "Our hogs needed to fire off the line quicker and we needed to make some plays when we had guys open. We're only going to get better offensively."
Defensively, the Panthers held W-DC to 240 yards with Kern leading the way with 111 yards on 26 carries.
"I thought our defense was solid. We were able to shut them down," said Morris. "Overall I was very happy with how our defense played."
The Panthers travel to East Grand Forks Friday night.
"We need to get our hogs working together. Our backs are quick enough that if the hogs can create a hole, they're gone," said Morris. "Defensively, we can't let up. Getting a win is a big confidence booster. Our goal now is to start 2-0."