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Turnovers costly for Panthers

East Grand Forks' defense intercepts two passes, recovers two fumbles to spark 31-6 victory

Failing to finish off drives deep in East Grand Forks territory and committing a couple key turnovers cost the Park Rapids football team Friday night.

East Grand Forks' defense forced four turnovers and came up with some crucial stops to spark a 31-6 Heart O'Lakes Conference and Section 8AAA victory.

"We came out a little flat and they executed when they needed to," said Park Rapids head coach Aaron Morris. "They were more physical than we were."

Colin Vaadeland's 26-yard return on the opening kickoff gave the Panthers possession near midfield. East Grand Forks' defense delivered its first big play on third down when Cody Kallock intercepted a pass and returned it 57 yards for a touchdown. Frankie Vargas caught the two-point conversion and the Green Wave had a quick 8-0 lead just 51 seconds into the game.

East Grand Forks' defense recovered a fumble on the Panthers' second play from scrimmage on the next series, but a sack by Billy Kimball and Jared Nash helped Park Rapids regain possession at its own 21.

After forcing a punt, the Green Wave marched 56 yards in nine plays to pad its lead. Quarterback Darrin Hager capped that drive with an 8-yard run on fourth-and-3. Hager ran in the conversion to give East Grand Forks a 16-0 lead with 2:08 to play in the first quarter.

Tucker Coborn had first-down runs of 13 yards and 10 yards as the Panthers marched to the EGF 13 before the Green Wave defense held.

Park Rapids' defense produced a big play recovering a fumble at the EGF 20. Once again the Green Wave defense rose to the challenge and stopped the Panthers at the 7.

A holding penalty forced the Green Wave to punt and the Panthers put together a seven-play, 56-yard scoring drive. A 7-yard run and an 8-yard catch by Coborn helped set up a 27-yard TD pass from Danny Pike to John Drury. That made it 16-6 with 19 seconds to play in the first half.

The Green Wave opened the second half with an eight-play, 70-yard drive. That scoring drive was capped with a 36-yard screen pass from Hager to Kallock on fourth-and-6. Luke Misialek's kick gave EGF a 23-6 lead with 7:17 remaining in the third quarter.

Both teams exchanged punts before the Panthers put together another scoring threat. Pike's 5-yard gain on fourth-and-3, Coborn's 8-yard run and Drury's 4-yard carry led to a first down at the EGF 28. That drive was stopped by an interception.

Hager broke free for a 57-yard run to set up a 5-yard TD run by Josh Moser. Moser's reception on the two-point conversion made it 31-6 with10:43 to play in the game. That final scoring drive covered 77 yards in five plays.

Park Rapids had one last chance to end the game on a positive note, but the Green Wave recovered a fumble near the goal line with 2:11 left.

East Grand Forks, which managed only 107 yards in a 24-7 season-opening loss to Staples-Motley, matched that total in the first half and finished with 276 yards in total offense. Hager led the way by rushing 13 times for 129 yards and completing 4 of 8 passes for 79 yards.

The Panthers racked up 252 yards in total offense with Coborn rushing 14 times for 79 yards. Pike completed 4 of 14 passes for 56 yards with Drury making two receptions for 33 yards. Drury also rushed 14 times for 49 yards as the Panthers fell to 1-1 in the conference and section.

Morris will coach his first game at home when the Panthers hosts Thief River Falls Friday night. Kickoff at Vern Weekley Field is set for 7 p.m.

"We have a lot of talent on this team. We need to work as a team and have everybody to do his job," said Morris. "If we do the little things right and come out and play to our ability, we can play with anybody."