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Kurt Fritze (52) tackled Perham quarterback Eli Beachy during Park Rapids' 7-0 win Wednesday night.

Panthers top Perham, earn No. 1 seed

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     Having one of the top defenses in the state helped the Park Rapids football team earn the No. 1 seed for the Section 8AAA playoffs.

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     The Panthers, who have allowed an average of 10.1 points a game this season to rank second among Class AAA teams, relied on their defense to shut out Perham 7-0 in the regular-season finale Wednesday night at Vern Weekley Field.

     That victory not only snapped a 17-game losing streak to the Yellowjackets, but gave Park Rapids a 5-1 record for a share of the Heart O’Lakes Conference Northern Division title with Detroit Lakes and locked up the top seed and a first-round bye for the section playoffs.

     It was also the first time the Panthers have defeated Perham since a 29-19 Section 8A playoff victory in 1995. This game also marked the first time Perham has been held scoreless since 1997.

     “This was a huge win for us,” said Park Rapids head coach Aaron Morris, whose team improved to 6-2 on the season. “Our defense has been our strength all year and our defense was solid again. It was unbelievable how hard the kids played and how hard they hit. It was a total team effort against a very good team.”

     This battle of conference and section rivals didn’t feature much offense as the Panthers were held to 162 yards while Perham managed only 153 yards. A low-scoring game was expected as Perham entered this game rated No. 9 in the state by allowing only 13.4 points per game.

     Both teams exchanged punts and turnovers during a scoreless first quarter.

     On the first series of the game, Spencer Adolphson blocked a Perham punt and the Panthers took over at the Perham 26. However, the Yellowjackets recovered a fumble on Park Rapids’ third play from scrimmage.

     After forcing another Perham punt, the Panthers took over at their own 38. A fumble on the next play gave the Yellowjackets possession at the Park Rapids 42. A penalty for an illegal block forced another Perham punt.

     The Panthers put together the game’s only scoring drive on their fifth offensive series. A facemask penalty on Josh Severtson’s punt return gave Park Rapids possession at the Perham 32. After a 7-yard pass play from Tyler McCollum to Noah MacPherson and a 6-yard run by Ben Baumgartner, McCollum hit Jon Burlingame over the middle for a 19-yard TD pass on third-and-10. Jarrett Johnson’s kick gave the Panthers a 7-0 lead with 6:55 to play in the second quarter.

     That would be all the offense the Panthers would need.

     On the Panthers’ next possession, a 17-yard reception by Drew Bade led to a first down at the Perham 35, but Brandon Olson’s interception at the 18 ended that drive.

     Nate Rak recovered a fumble two plays later as the Panthers took over at the Perham 43. Matt Bade’s 13-yard catch led to a first down at the 27, but a sack and unsportsmanlike penalty ended the half.

     Tyler Glines intercepted a pass on the fifth play of the second half, but Burlingame countered with an interception and return to the Perham 5. The Panthers were denied another score when Glines picked off a pass in the end zone and returned it to the 20.

     Perham put together its only scoring threat of the game when quarterback Eli Beachy gained 8 yards on third-and-4 at the 26 and 2 yards on fourth-and-1 at the Perham 46, Nick Bahls rushed for 14 yards and Austin Erickson gained 13 yards for a first down at the Park Rapids 19. A holding penalty ended that drive and forced a punt.

     The Panthers took over at their own 5 and put together an 85-yard drive that consumed 6:29 off the clock. MacPherson caught a 7-yard pass and Baumgartner rushed twice for 13 yards to overcome a holding penalty before a personal-foul penalty led to another first down at the 45. Baumgartner followed with receptions of 15 and 25 yards as the Panthers reached the Perham 13. That drive stalled and the Yellowjackets took over at the 10 with 5:31 to play.

     Beachy rushed for 11 yards and gained 2 yards on fourth-and-1, Payton Jordahl followed with an 11-yard run and Bahls caught an 11-yard pass on fourth-and-9 as the Yellowjackets marched to the Park Rapids 44. But a sack by Rak was followed by an interception by Burlingame at the 23 to seal the win.

     Park Rapids’ offense managed only 56 yards on the ground on 27 carries while McCollum completed 8 of 20 passes for 106 yards. For the sixth time in eight games this season, the Panthers didn’t score a point in the second half during regulation play but pulled off a win for the fifth time.

     Jordahl rushed 14 times for 47 yards and Beachy had 39 yards on 19 carries as Perham fell to 4-2 in the conference and 5-3 overall.

     “There was a lot riding on this game, but the kids didn’t seem nervous. They just played the way they know how to play,” said Morris. “The offense struggled, but we found a way to win. We had a lot of turnovers, but the defense stepped up. The kids deserved this win. This was a big night for Park Rapids football.”

     With the win, the Panthers will receive a first-round bye when the Section 8AAA playoffs begin Tuesday night. Park Rapids will host a section semifinal game next Saturday.

     “Being the No. 1 seed is where we wanted to be,” said Morris. “I’m so proud of these kids. This win should give the kids a big confidence boost going into the playoffs.”

Perham              0      0    0      0…0

Park Rapids        0      7    0      0...7

SCORING

PR-Burlingame 19 pass from T. McCollum (J. Johnson kick)

TEAM STATISTICS

                                PER          PR

First downs               12            11

Rushes-yards             46-132     27-56

Passing                     3-12-2      8-20-3

Passing yards            21            106

Total yards                153          162

Penalties-yards          5-64         3-27

Fumbles-lost              1-1            3-2

Time of possession     28:50       19:10

OFFENSIVE STATISTICS

RUSHING. Perham: Jordahl 14-47, Beachy 19-39, Erickson 4-29, Bahls 1-14. Park Rapids: Baumgartner 8-30, Burlingame 11-29, M. Bade 3-6, Severtson 5-6.

PASSING. Perham: Beachy 3-12-2 for 21 yards. Park Rapids: McCollum 8-20-3 for 106 yards.

RECEIVING. Perham: Bahls 2-19, Mulcahy 1-2. Park Rapids: MacPherson 3-17, Baumgartner 2-40, Burlingame 1-19, D. Bade 1-17, M. Bade 1-13.

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