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Turnovers costly for Panthers

sports Park Rapids,Minnesota 56470
Park Rapids Enterprise
Turnovers costly for Panthers
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

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."