Perham's offense too explosive for Panthers
For the first seven minutes of Thursday night's Section 8AAA football game, Park Rapids was able to match Perham's explosive offense.
The Panthers' defense didn't have an answer to Perham's potent passing attack the rest of the game.
Perham scored on six consecutive possessions and finished with 458 yards, including 298 through the air, en route to a 51-27 victory at Perham's Ted Meinhover Field.
Park Rapids' offense showed its own quick-striking ability by scoring on its first three possessions of the game.
The Yellowjackets received the opening kickoff, but fumbled on their first play from scrimmage. Kevin McMorrow recovered the loose ball as the Panthers took over at the Perham 33.
On the next play, Tucker Coborn scored on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Dan Pike. Coborn's kick gave the Panthers a 7-0 lead just 17 seconds into the game.
Ben Waldon fielded the ensuing kickoff and sprinted 89 yards as Perham cut the deficit to 7-6 with 11:27 to play in the opening quarter.
The Panthers countered with an 11-play, 59-yard drive to pad their lead. Coborn started the drive with a 16-yard run and kept the drive alive with a 6-yard run on fourth-and-3 at the Perham 21. Kevin McMorrow finished off the drive with runs of 8, 2 and 5 yards as the Panthers led 13-6 with 7:02 remaining in the first quarter.
Quarterback Ben Bucholz, who entered the game with 1,326 passing yards and 15 TDs, hit Waldon on a 72-yard pass play as the Yellowjackets tied the game at 13-13 with 6:39 on the clock.
Again the Panthers retaliated as Coborn's 56-yard touchdown run capped a quick three-play, 64-yard drive. At the 5:27 mark of the opening quarter, the Panthers held a 19-13 advantage over the state's No. 10-rated Class AAA team.
The rest of the first half was dominated by the Yellowjackets.
Perham ended the first quarter with an eight-play, 60-yard drive to tie the game. A 19-yard reception by Alex Phelps, a pair of 9-yard gains by Matt Dryer and Tim Hermann, and a 9-yard loss by Gabe Pankonin set up a 28-yard scoring play from Bucholz to Phelps on third-and-20. With 1:39 to go in the first period, the game was tied at 19-19.
Three more touchdowns in the second quarter gave Perham a 38-19 lead at the half.
After holding the Panthers on the next series, Perham took over at the Park Rapids 20 after a fumbled snap on a punt. Five plays later, Bucholz found Waldon on a 9-yard scoring route and the Yellowjackets claimed a 25-19 lead with 10:46 to play in the first half.
Park Rapids started its next drive at its own 13, but suffered a major loss when Coborn was carted off the field after cracking a bone below his knee. When play resumed, a 36-yard run by John Drury led to a first down near midfield. The Panthers were stopped on fourth-and-4 at the Perham 45 and the Yellowjackets took advantage with a nine-play, 53-yard drive.
Chris Scheidecker's 7-yard run on third down and Dreyer's 11-yard carry on third down kept alive the drive, which ended on Harvey McMahon's 16-yard TD run. That score gave the Yellowjackets a 31-19 lead with 5:42 remaining in the first half.
Perham's defense forced the Panthers into another punting situation and the Yellowjackets regained possession at their own 45. After an 11-yard catch by Charlie Schmitz, Scheidecker broke free for a 51-yard TD run to give the home team a 38-19 advantage at the 2:20 mark.
The Yellowjackets forced another punt and used Waldon's two receptions for 25 yards to reach the Park Rapids 22 before McMorrow ended that threat and the half by recovering a fumble.
At the start of the second half, the Panthers used a 26-yard catch by Drury to reach the Perham 30 before an interception by Waldon at the 17 and 31-yard return gave the Yellowjackets possession near midfield.
Bucholz hit Cody Soderstrom for a 48-yard gain, which set up a 9-yard TD run by Scheidecker. That pushed Perham's lead to 44-19 with 7:37 to play in the third quarter.
Park Rapids was forced to punt on the next series and the Yellowjackets put together a four-play, 60-yard drive for their final touchdown. Bucholz hit Waldon for 14 yards and Dreyer for 16 yards before Scheidecker capped the drive with a 26-yard TD run. With 4:35 remaining in the third quarter, the Yellowjackets had a 51-19 lead.
After each team traded punts, the Panthers used a 7-yard gain by Drury and a 5-yard carry by McMorrow to reach the Perham 25. That drive stalled when Waldon intercepted a pass at the Perham 16.
Two plays later, Christian Ridlon recovered a fumble and the Panthers took over at the Perham 8. A 3-yard run by McMorrow was followed with a 5-yard TD run by McMorrow, who added the conversion to conclude the scoring with 9:18 to play.
The Yellowjackets' reserves ran 15 plays and drove 73 yards to run out the clock.
"I think we shocked them right away, but I knew we couldn't keep up that scoring pace. We needed to shut their offense down and we couldn't do it," said Park Rapids head coach Aaron Morris. "Overall I was satisfied with how we played. Our kids played well against a tough Perham team. I would have liked to come out with a win, but I was happy with how we played."
Bucholz completed 13 of 18 passes for 261 yards and three TDs with Waldon catching six passes for 125 yards and two scores. Scheidecker led Perham's running attack with 11 carries for 101 yards. The win lifted Perham to 5-1 in the conference and 6-1 overall.
Coborn rushed five times for 76 yards, Drury rushed nine times for 64 yards and McMorrow had 55 yards on 15 carries as the Panthers compiled 191 yards on the ground. Pike completed 3 of 9 passes for 63 yards as Park Rapids fell to 1-4 in the conference and 2-5 overall.
The Panthers will conclude the regular season at Crookston tonight (Wednesday). Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. The Section 8AAA playoffs begin next Tuesday night.
"It was nice to score some points after our last two games," said Morris, whose team was outscored 74-8 in losses to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton and Pequot Lakes. "Hopefully we can carry that momentum on offense to Crookston and come out with a win going into the playoffs."