Panthers' season ends with playoff loss to Patriots
Five minutes into Tuesday night's Section 8AAA football playoff game, it appeared Pequot Lakes was on its way to another easy win over Park Rapids.
A pair of 6-yard touchdown runs by Logan Lange and Nevin Greer gave Pequot Lakes a quick 16-0 lead with 7:04 to play in the first quarter.
The top-seeded Patriots would go on for a 22-0 victory, but Park Rapids' defense kept the Panthers in the game, which was played in a mix of rain and snow.
Pequot Lakes, which was ranked No. 10 in the latest state Class AAA poll, compiled 212 yards in total offense while holding the Panthers to only 72 yards in offense. The Patriots, who shut out Park Rapids 36-0 during the regular season, improved to 8-1 while the Panthers finished at 0-9.
"I know the weather was not the best, but that is not an excuse. You have to learn to play every play, no matter what the conditions are," said Park Rapids head coach Aaron Morris. "The first few drives I could see the players were more worried about the weather than playing. After they realized that the weather was not going anywhere, they started to play."
The Patriots scored on their first possession and turned a recovered fumble into a short two-play, 20-yard drive to build a 16-0 lead.
Neither team scored the rest of the half. Pequot Lakes drove deep into Park Rapids territory three more times, but the Panthers' defense held. Meanwhile, Park Rapids' offense didn't produce a first down and managed only 6 yards in the first half.
Pequot Lakes concluded the scoring at the 3:12 mark of the third quarter with a five-play, 30-yard drive. Nolan Michaelson picked up 9 yards on fourth-and-5 and followed with a 16-yard touchdown run to give the Patriots a 22-0 lead.
The Panthers, who lost possession on a fumble and punted three times to open the second half, put together a scoring threat late in the game. A 15-yard catch by Forrest Drury and 13-yard catch by Dan Pike led to a first down at the Pequot Lakes 35. However, that drive stalled and the Patriots ran out the final 1:49 of the game.
Lange finished with 102 yards on 18 carries while Michaelson had 75 yards on 11 carries.
Ian Johnson completed 4 of 7 passes for 36 yards. Drury rushed nine times for 35 yards.
"I thought our defense played tough and made plays when they had to. We gave them a short field on their first two touchdowns. You take that away and it could have been a different game," said Morris. "The offense struggled to move the ball in the first half. We did better in the second half, but a few fumbles took the wind out of us. I hate to see the seniors not win a game, but they played hard all the way to the end."
PL-Lange 6 run (Lange run)
PL-Greer 6 run (Lange run)
PL-Michaelson 16 run (pass failed)
RUSHING. Park Rapids: Drury 9-35, Vaadeland 11-19, Pike 7-10, Johnson 7-(-27). Pequot Lakes: Lange 18-102, Michaelson 11-75, Tulenchik 5-23.
PASSING. Park Rapids: Johnson 4-7-0 for 36 yards.
RECEIVING. Park Rapids: Drury 1-15, Pike 2-14, Vaadeland 1-7.