Rebels capitalize on turnovers; Interception return, four fumble recoveries spark D-G-F's 35-0 win
Aaron Morris said the Park Rapids football team had to play mistake-free football in order to cap off homecoming week with a victory over undefeated Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Friday night.
D-G-F took advantage of several mistakes by the Panthers to leave Vern Weekley Field with a 35-0 victory.
The Panthers lost four of five fumbles, had five penalties, allowed two sacks and saw D-G-F return an interception for a score in falling to 2-3 on the season.
"Turnovers were the key," said Morris, whose team allowed 271 yards while compiling 154 yards in offense. "Mistakes will kill you, especially against a good team."
Zack Askelson opened the game with a 47-yard kickoff return to the Park Rapids 43. However, the Panthers' defense held and Park Rapids took over at the 25.
Following a 22-yard catch by Tucker Coborn, the Panthers were forced to punt.
D-G-F took control of the game by scoring twice in the final 2:55 of the first quarter.
The Rebels capped off a five-play, 73-yard drive with Askelson's 55-yard touchdown run and ended the quarter when Jake Bjerke returned an interception 50 yards for another score. Those two plays gave the Rebels a 14-0 lead.
The Rebels forced Park Rapids to punt again and put together a quick six-play, 37-yard drive to pad their lead. A 15-yard run by Jared Roelofs and an 11-yard carry by Bennett Mercil set up a 3-yard TD plunge by Roelofs. An offsides penalty and facemask penalty by the Panthers helped D-G-F take a 21-0 lead with 7:54 to play in the first half.
D-G-F had two more chances to increase its lead before the intermission, but the Panthers' defense held at the 14 with 2:00 remaining and Eric Gilles missed a 41-yard field goal on the last play of the half after the Rebels recovered a fumble at the Park Rapids 21.
At the start of the second half, the Panthers had a chance to get back in the game. Park Rapids took the kickoff and marched to the D-G-F 8 before losing possession on a fumble. Coborn started the drive with a 9-yard run and quarterback Dan Pike had runs of 15, 8 and 8 yards. A penalty on D-G-F for a late hit gave the Panthers first-and-goal at the 9 before a fumble ended that drive.
After each team exchanged punts, the Rebels sealed the win with a five-play, 52-yard drive. Roelofs' 18-yard catch on third-and-12 kept the drive alive, which ended with Mercil's 29-yard TD run. With 46 seconds to play in the third quarter, D-G-F held a 28-0 lead.
Colin Vaadeland's 42-yard kickoff return gave the Panthers a first down at the D-G-F 48. Coborn's 6-yard run and Kevin McMorrow's 4-yard carry led to another first down before a fumble ended that drive and set up the Rebels' final score.
Roelofs picked up the loose ball and returned it 43 yards to the Park Rapids 19. Three plays later, Mercil scored from 16 yards out for a 35-0 lead with 10:28 to play.
A 16-yard run by Coborn on the ensuing series gave the Panthers a first down at the D-G-F 46. But the Rebels recovered their fourth fumble of the game to preserve the shutout.
Mercil rushed 11 times for 105 yards and Askelson had nine rushes for 70 yards as the Rebels compiled 244 yards on the ground. D-G-F, which was ranked No. 7 in last week's state Class AA poll, improved to 5-0 on the season.
Coborn rushed 11 times for 58 yards, McMorrow had 38 yards on 14 carries and Drury finished with 29 yards on nine attempts as the Panthers gained 132 yards on the ground. Pike completed 1 of 5 passes for 22 yards.
Defensively, Dan Ricke was in on 14 tackles, McMorrow made nine tackles, and Pike, Coborn and Cory Odland had eight tackles each as the Panthers fell to 2-3 on the season.
"They didn't totally dominate us, but they were able to capitalize on our mistakes," said Morris. "The disappointing thing is we came out flat and let them dictate the game."
The Panthers face another tough test this Friday night by hosting Pequot Lakes in a Heart O'Lakes Conference North Division game. Pequot Lakes is 3-0 in the conference following a 35-32 win over Perham Friday night. Perham was undefeated and ranked No. 5 in last week's state Class AAA poll. Pequot Lakes is 4-1 overall and currently third in the Section 8AAA standings with 51 points. Park Rapids is 2-3 and in sixth place with 39 points.
"We're still in the hunt for a home playoff game," said Morris. "We just have to keep plugging away. If we play like we did against Roseau and don't make any mistakes, we can beat Pequot."
D-G-F 14 7 7 7 35
Park Rapids 0 0 0 0 0
DGF-Askelson 55 run (Gilles kick)
DGF-Bjerke 50 interception return (Gilles kick)
DGF-Roelofs 3 run (Gilles kick)
DGF-Mercil 29 run (Gilles kick)
DGF-Mercil 16 run (Gilles kick)
First downs 12 11
Rushing 39-244 46-132
Passing 2-5-0 1-5-1
Yards passing 27 22
Total net yards 271 154
RUSHING. DGF: Mercil 11-105, Askelson 9-70, Roelofs 12-59. Park Rapids: Coborn 11-58, McMorrow 14-38, J. Drury 9-29, Pike 12-7.
PASSING. DGF: Gilles 2-5-0 for 28 yards. Park Rapids: Pike 1-5-1 for 22 yards.
RECEIVING. DGF: Roelofs 1-18, DeJong 1-9. Park Rapids: Coborn 1-22.
KICKOFF RETURNS. Park Rapids: Coborn 3-59, Vaadeland 2-63.
PARK RAPIDS DEFENSIVE STATS
SOLO TACKLES: Pike 3, Ricke 2, Coborn 2, Odland 2, J. Drury 1, McMorrow 1.
ASSISTED TACKLES: Ricke 12, McMorrow 8, Nash 6, Coborn 6, Odland 6, Kanten 5, Pike 5, Hovelsrud 4, Ridlon 3, J. Drury 3, Kimball 2, Erickson 1, Ritter 1, Dirks 1, Tretbar 1, F. Drury 1.
KICKOFFS: Padilla 1-52.