Patriots overcome 26-0 deficit to upset Panthers in section semifinal game
Pequot Lakes was in a dire situation near the end of the third quarter of Saturday afternoon’s Section 8AAA football semifinal playoff game against Park Rapids at Vern Weekley Field.
When Josh Severtson opened the second half by returning the kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown, Pequot Lakes faced a 26-0 deficit against the top seed in the section and one of the top defenses in the state.
The No. 4-seeded Patriots didn’t panic as five unanswered touchdowns in a span of eight minutes sparked a second-half rally as Pequot Lakes advanced to the Section 8AAA championship game with a 34-26 victory.
“Pequot Lakes is a good team, but I still think we’re the better team. After the game I told the kids that sometimes the best team doesn’t always win. That’s why you play the game,” said Park Rapids head coach Aaron Morris. “You have to give Pequot Lakes credit. They didn’t give up and found a way to win.”
Special plays by the special teams helped Park Rapids dominate for almost three quarters in building a 26-0 lead.
A bad snap on a Pequot Lakes punt on the opening series gave the Panthers possession at the Patriots’ 30.
Five plays later, Ben Baumgartner ran in from 7 yards out to give Park Rapids a 6-0 lead with 8:41 to play in the first quarter. A 12-yard run by Baumgartner and 19-yard pass from Tyler McCollum to Derek Porozinski set up the game’s first score.
After both teams exchanged punts, the Panthers had another scoring opportunity when a 9-yard pass from McCollum to Noah MacPherson and a penalty for pass interference led to a first down at the 12. Kyle Sellner ended that threat with an interception in the end zone.
After forcing the Patriots to punt, the Panthers extended their lead to 12-0 on a 50-yard touchdown run by Jon Burlingame with 8:59 to play in the first half.
On the ensuing kickoff, Remington Hagan recovered an onside kick at the Pequot Lakes 36. Two plays later, McCollum hit MacPherson on a 37-yard scoring route. MacPherson added the conversion run as the Panthers held a 20-0 lead with 8:16 remaining in the first half.
The Panthers attempted another onside kick, which Riley Massie recovered near midfield. Unfortunately that drive stalled and Park Rapids was forced to punt. McCollum was also injured during that series and didn’t return to the game. The Panthers’ offense also didn’t return.
On Pequot Lakes’ next play, MacPherson recovered a fumble at the 31. However, the Panthers couldn’t capitalize as six running plays on their final two series of the half resulted in negative yardage. That would be an omen of things to come.
Severtson opened the second half with his kickoff return down the left sideline to give the Panthers a seemingly comfortable 26-0 lead. Pequot Lakes, which compiled only 80 yards and three first downs in the first half, had scored only 85 points in the previous eight games with a high of 21 while Park Rapids’ defense had given up only 46 points in the previous seven games with a high of 14.
Those numbers didn’t faze the Patriots, who dominated the second half with 309 yards of offense while limiting the Panthers to only 48 yards and two first downs after the kickoff return.
After Severtson’s kickoff return, Drew Bade intercepted a pass at the Park Rapids 15. Baumgartner followed with a 20-yard run, but the Panthers were forced to punt.
Park Rapids’ defense forced the Patriots to punt and used Baumgartner’s 22-yard run to reach the Pequot Lakes 28. But a penalty for a false start and a sack led to another Park Rapids punt.
Pequot Lakes took over at the 1 and drove 99 yards in five plays to take over the momentum. Tyler Tappe avoided a safety and escaped for a 91-yard run to the 8 to set up a 4-yard TD pass from C.J. Borleis to Connor Davich. That cut the gap to 26-6 with 33 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The Patriots attempted an onside kick and recovered the loose ball at the Pequot Lakes 46. Borleis hit Travis Jacobson on a 21-yard route and a personal-foul penalty for roughing the passer led to a first down at the Park Rapids 18. On the next play, Borleis connected with Justin Mackenthun on an 18-yard TD route. Borleis ran in the conversion and the Patriots trailed 26-14 entering the fourth quarter.
After forcing the Panthers to punt, Pequot Lakes marched 71 yards in five plays for another score. A 63-yard reception by Davich to the 8 set up a 1-yard plunge by Mackenthun on fourth down. With 8:31 to play, the Patriots had cut the gap to 26-20.
Park Rapids fumbled on its next play from scrimmage, which Pequot Lakes recovered at the Panthers’ 28. A 16-yard catch by Shae Zeidler on fourth-and-14 set up a 15-yard TD reception by Davich. Borleis’ kick gave the Patriots a 27-26 lead with 7:01 to play.
On the ensuing series, Davich intercepted a pass at the Park Rapids 33 and the Patriots capitalized when Zeidler ran in from 33 yards out on the next play. Borleis’ kick gave Pequot Lakes a 34-26 lead with 5:19 to play.
Another interception by Davich gave the Patriots possession at the Park Rapids 36 with 3:59 to play. A 6-yard run by Zeidler on third-and-6 and a 20-yard catch by Jacobson on fourth-and-10 enabled Pequot Lakes to run out the clock and finish off the upset.
“The guys came out with a lot of fire and built a nice lead. I think the kids felt comfortable with the lead,” said Morris. “We thought we had the game won and played reserved in the second half.”
The Panthers, who edged Pequot Lakes 14-12 during the regular season, allowed a season-high 389 yards in ending the season with a 6-3 record.
Burlingame rushed 10 times for 50 yards and Baumgartner had 48 yards on 15 carries as the Panthers managed 92 yards on 38 attempts. Eleven of those carries went for negative yards. McCollum completed 4 of 8 passes for 61 yards before leaving the game while Bade went 1 for 7 for 12 yards as Park Rapids was held to 165 yards for the game.
Pequot Lakes finished with 201 yards on the ground and 188 yards passing. Tappe rushed 14 times for 134 yards while Zeidler added 62 yards on nine carries. Borleis completed 12 of 20 passes for 188 yards with Davich making four catches for 98 yards.
With the win, the Patriots advance to the section championship game with a 5-5 record. Pequot Lakes will play No. 2 Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, which advanced with a 19-14 win over No. 3 Perham in Saturday’s other semifinal game. D-G-F is 7-2.
“I’m so proud of what we accomplished this year,” said Morris. “Unfortunately we came out on the short end of the stick. It’s a tough way to end the season.”
Pequot Lakes 0 0 14 20…34
Park Rapids 6 14 6 0...26
PR-Baumgartner 7 run (kick blocked)
PR-Burlingame 50 run (run failed)
PR-MacPherson 37 pass from McCollum (MacPherson run)
PR-Severtson 80 kickoff return (kick failed)
PL-Davich 4 pass from Borleis (pass failed)
PL-Mackenthun 18 pass from Borleis (Borleis run)
PL-Mackenthun 1 run (kick blocked)
PL-Davich 15 pass from Borleis (Borleis kick)
PL-Zeidler 33 run (Borleis kick)
First downs 9 7
Rushes-yards 35-201 38-92
Passing 12-20-1 5-15-3
Passing yards 188 73
Total yards 389 165
Penalties-yards 5-43 3-35
Fumbles-lost 2-1 2-1
RUSHING. Pequot Lakes: Tappe 14-134, Zeidler 9-62. Park Rapids: Burlingame 10-50, Baumgartner 15-48, M. Bade 4-15, MacPherson 1-3, Severtson 2-(-6), Bade 6-(-8).
PASSING. Pequot Lakes: Borleis 12-20-1 for 188 yards. Park Rapids: McCollum 4-8-1 for 61 yards; D. Bade 1-7-2 for 12 yards.
RECEIVING. Pequot Lakes: Davich 4-98, Mackenthun 4-47, Jacobson 3-42. Park Rapids: MacPherson 3-46, Porozinski 2-27.