Prowlers' running attack keys win
Thief River Falls fumbled on its first two possessions of Friday night's Section 8AAA and Heart O'Lakes Conference football game against Park Rapids.
The Prowlers' starters didn't make another mistake the rest of the game.
After losing two fumbles, Thief River Falls scored on its next five possessions in building a 35-0 lead at the half en route to a 42-14 victory at Vern Weekley Field.
On the first play from scrimmage, Kevin McMorrow recovered a fumble to give Park Rapids possession at the TRF 17.
Thief River Falls' defense held and the Prowlers took over at the 10.
Matthew Lindquist's 38-yard run gave TRF a first down at the Park Rapids 32. Five plays later, Dan Ricke recovered a fumble to give Park Rapids possession at its own 13.
After forcing the Panthers to punt, TRF took the lead with a four-play, 35-yard drive. Lindquist's 30-yard TD run capped that short drive as the Prowlers claimed a 7-0 lead with 3:13 to play in the first quarter.
The Panthers responded with a 14-play, 55-yard drive. A 12-yard run by John Drury, a 14-yard gain by Tucker Coborn, a 6-yard run by Drury on third-and-4, and Danny Pike's 1-yard gain on fourth-and-1 led to a first down at the TRF 33. However, that drive stalled at the 24.
Riley Simenson rushed three times for 32 yards before capping a nine-play, 76-yard march with a 23-yard TD run for a 14-0 lead with 6:43 remaining in the first half.
TRF forced another Park Rapids punt and padded its lead with a seven-play, 39-yard drive. Jacob Langevin's 13-yard scoring pass to Josh Watne gave the Prowlers a 21-0 advantage with 2:50 left in the second quarter.
Simenson's 34-yard punt return sparked another short scoring drive by the Prowlers. Simenson's 12-yard run and Kaleb Torgerson's 9-yard carry set up a 2-yard TD plunge by Torgerson. That four-play, 26-yard drive gave the Prowlers a 28-0 cushion with 41 seconds remaining in the first half.
TRF's defense recovered a fumble at the Park Rapids 25 and the Prowlers took advantage as Simenson's 22-yard run set up a 3-yard plunge by Torgerson with 28 seconds left to give the visitors a 35-0 lead at the half.
Simenson rushed for 104 of Thief River Falls' 179 yards in the second quarter while the Panthers' offense was limited to only 10 yards in that second period.
"When you play a good team, you have to capitalize on their turnovers," said Park Rapids head coach Aaron Morris. "If we would have scored a touchdown (on their first fumble), who knows what would have happened."
Park Rapids opened the second half by punting, but a fumble recovery by Tucker Coborn gave the Panthers possession at their own 39. A 44-yuard run by Drury and a 21-yard carry by Coborn set up a 3-yard TD run by Coborn to cap off a quick four-play, 61-yard drive. Pike ran in the two-point conversion as the Panthers trailed 35-8 with 5:08 to play in the third quarter.
After forcing the Prowlers to punt, the Panthers quickly scored again when Drury broke free on the next play for a 64-yard TD run. With 2:56 to play in the third quarter, the Panthers were within 35-14.
Thief River Falls responded with a 10-play, 79-yard drive to steal the momentum. Simenson's 42-yard run and 13-yard TD run on third-and-goal were the key plays as the Prowlers claimed a 42-14 advantage with 10:11 to go.
Caleb Abraham recovered a fumble at the Park Rapids 41 on TRF's next possession, but the Panthers lost possession on downs and the Prowlers were able to run out the clock.
"I was proud of the kids for never giving up," said Morris. "We were down 35-0 at halftime, but the kids came out with some fight and kept battling. The kids saw what we can do when we do the little things right. We played a lot better in the second half and played hard until the end. That's something we can build on."
Simenson rushed 24 times for 204 yards, Lindquist gained 90 yards on nine carries and Torgerson picked up 76 yards on 26 attempts as the Prowlers finished with 411 yards on the ground.
Drury rushed 11 times for a career-high 142 yards and Coborn added 70 yards on 15 carries as the Panthers compiled 233 yards on the ground.
Defensively, McMorrow and Pike were in on 13 tackles each while Jared Nash and Billy Kimball made 11 tackles each. Ricke had 10 tackles before leaving the game with an ankle injury.
The Panthers, who fell to 1-2 on the season, will travel to Roseau for another conference and section game Friday night. Kickoff against the 0-3 Rams is set for 7 p.m.