For the first time since 1983, the Detroit Lakes football team opened the season with an 0-3 record.
Thanks to several big plays, an offense that racked up 581 yards and a defense that forced two turnovers to stop scoring drives, the Lakers entered the win column for the first time this season with a 48-6 victory over Park Rapids Friday night at Vern Weekley Field.
Detroit Lakes scored on a 97-yard run, returned a kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown and used a 63-yard run to set up another score to spark the victory in this Midwest Red District game.
"I knew DL was going to come out with their 'A' game after losing their first three games. We talked all week that we had to come out of the gate on fire and play hard," said Park Rapids head coach Aaron Morris. "For the first quarter and half of the second, we did and then it seemed like we ran out of gas. The kids played hard, but we had a few mental mistakes and DL took advantage of them."
Park Rapids took the opening kickoff, but had to punt after six plays despite two receptions by Zach Severtson for 14 yards and a 10-yard catch by Tristin Persons. A bad snap resulted in a 10-yard loss that forced a punt.
The Lakers responded with a 12-play drive as Ben Nordmark's 17-yard catch and 14-yard run on fourth-and-1 led to a first down at the Park Rapids 14. Three incomplete passes ended that threat as Park Rapids took over at the 10.
A 14-play drive followed as a personal-foul penalty and a 15-yard reception and 8-yard run by Persons drove the Panthers to the Detroit Lakes 46. A holding penalty resulted in another punt as Park Rapids controlled play by holding the ball for 7:30 in the first quarter.
Detroit Lakes opened the second quarter with a 14-play, 82-yard scoring drive. Isaiah Thompson's 9-yard run, Gabe Hanninen's 12-yard carry, a 15-yard pass to Reed Mace and a 28-yard catch by Mace set up a 1-yard TD run by Nordmark. The conversion failed as the Lakers led 6-0 with 8:27 to play before halftime.
Jason Haas caught a 21-yard halfback pass from Severtson to open the Panthers' next series, but that drive stalled and resulted in another punt.
The Lakers were pinned at their own 3-yard line, but used their first big play of the game to pad their lead. On the second play, Thompson sprinted 97 yards down the right sideline and Hanninen caught the conversion pass for a 14-0 lead at the 5:59 mark.
After forcing the Panthers to punt for the fourth time, an eight-play, 63-yard drive extended Detroit Lakes' lead. A 16-yard run by quarterback Jackson Haire, a 9-yard carry by Nordmark on third-and-6, a 9-yard run by Haire and a penalty for unnecessary roughness on the Panthers set up a 9-yard TD run by Nordmark. Logan Pratt's conversion catch gave the Lakers a 22-0 advantage with 2:51 to play before the break.
The Panthers gained some momentum on the ensuing series as Severtson's 7-yard TD run closed the gap to 22-6 with 54 seconds remaining in the first half. A personal-foul penalty on third-and-8 started the drive. Haas, who took over at quarterback when Jens Anderson suffered a knee injury, hit Cameron Hoyt twice for 13 yards while another personal-foul penalty by the Lakers led to a first down at the 14. Severtson scored three plays later.
Park Rapids' momentum was short-lived as Thompson returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards to give the Lakers a 28-6 advantage at the break.
"They did not run anything we did not practice all week. Watching film, it was poor tackling and they found some cut-back allies. We also did not do our assignments on some of the big plays. We talked about the importance of doing your job and not someone else's, but there were times when someone was out of position and DL took advantage of it," said Morris about the Lakers' 28-point second quarter. "(Thompson's kickoff return) took the wind out of the sail. The kids just battled back and got us back in the game and then all of a sudden the momentum swung back to them."
Detroit Lakes' defense controlled the second half as an interception and recovered fumble stopped the Panthers' two scoring chances.
The Lakers opened the second half with a 15-play drive that consumed 6:23 off the clock despite not producing any points. Detroit Lakes ran 12 running plays to reach the Park Rapids 28 before Mace caught an apparent 24-yard TD pass. However, that play was called back for an illegal formation and Park Rapids' defense held.
A 14-yard run by Persons and 7-yard catch by Jake Reish led the Panthers to midfield before Tanner Doppler intercepted a pass at the 28.
A nine-play scoring drive followed as a pass interference call on third-and-12 and 2-yard run by Hanninen on fourth-and-2 set up a 37-yard scoring run by Thompson. Tristan Wimmer's kick made it 35-6 with 1:49 left in the third quarter.
Park Rapids was forced to punt again, but the Lakers fumbled the kick and the Panthers regained possession at the 25. A 10-yard run by Haas and penalty for a late hit gave Park Rapids a first down at the 7, but that drive stalled when Detroit Lakes recovered a fumble at the 8.
Mace took over at quarterback and followed a 25-yard run with a 64-yard run to the Park Rapids 3. Thompson capped off that quick five-play, 92-yard scoring drive with a 2-yard TD run on third down. With 10:45 to play, the Lakers led 41-6.
The Panthers were forced to punt for the sixth time and a bad snap resulted in Detroit Lakes taking over at the Park Rapids 17. Five plays later, Jackson Rhodes scored from 2 yards out to conclude the scoring with 5:49 remaining.
"I loved how hard the kids played in the first quarter. It showed them the potential they have if they are able to put a full game together," said Morris. "If they were able to play that way for all four quarters in the first three games, I strongly believe that we would have been 3-0. We have to figure out a way to put a full game together because we showed glimpses of how good this team could be."
Thompson led the Lakers' potent rushing attack with 159 yards on 10 carries. Hanninen added 92 yards on 21 carries and Mace gained 90 yards on three attempts. Detroit Lakes ran the ball 59 times for 516 yards and compiled 28 first downs on 72 plays while holding the ball for almost 28 minutes. That helped offset seven penalties for 80 yards as the Lakers improved to 1-2 in district play and 1-3 overall.
The Panthers finished with 153 yards, including 98 through the air. Anderson completed 6 of 9 passes for 40 yards and Haas passed for 29 yards by completing 4 of 9 attempts. Persons, who caught three passes for 31 yards, rushed 12 times for 34 yards as Park Rapids was held to only 48 yards on the ground. The Panthers managed only 10 first downs, with three of those via Detroit Lakes penalties, in falling to 0-3 in the district and 0-4 overall.
In Friday night's other Section 8AAA games, Perham defeated Thief River Falls 65-20, Pequot Lakes defeated Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 35-7 and Fergus Falls defeated East Grand Forks 33-3. Perham tops the section standings at 4-0 while D-G-F and Pequot Lakes sit at 2-2. East Grand Forks and Thief River Falls are 1-3.
Perham and Fergus Falls (3-1 overall) lead the district standings at 3-0 while D-G-F is 2-1. East Grand Forks, Pequot Lakes and Thief River Falls join Detroit Lakes at 1-2 in district games.
Park Rapids will cap off homecoming week by hosting D-G-F this Friday night with a 6 p.m. kickoff at Vern Weekley Field.
"I am expecting a ground-and-pound from D-G-F. They like to run the ball and are very physical," said Morris. "We will keep working to get better because I know the potential this team has if they are able to put a full game together. They just need to believe in themselves and the team and good things will happen."
Detroit Lakes 0 28 7 13...48
Park Rapids 0 6 0 0...6
DL--Nordmark 1 run (run failed)
DL--Thompson 97 run (Hanninen pass from Haire)
DL--Nordmark 9 run (Pratt pass from Haire)
PR--Severtson 7 run (pass failed)
DL--Thompson 80 kickoff return (pass failed)
DL--Thompson 37 run (Wimmer kick)
DL--Thompson 3 run (kick blocked)
DL--Rhodes 2 run (Wimmer kick)
RUSHING. Detroit Lakes: Thompson 10-159, Hanninen 21-92, Mace 3-90, Nordmark 11-68, Gunderson 4-61, Haire 4-28. Park Rapids: Persons 12-34, Severtson 2-7, S. Fritze 2-6, Dravis 2-6, Anderson 4-2, Z. Fritze 2-2, Haas 2-(-2).
PASSING. Detroit Lakes: Haire 3-13-0 for 65 yards. Park Rapids: Anderson 6-9-0 for 40 yards; Haas 4-9-1 for 29 yards; Severtson 1-1-0 for 21 yards; S. Fritze 1-2-0 for 8 yards.
RECEIVING. Detroit Lakes: Mace 2-48, Nordmark 1-17. Park Rapids: Persons 3-31, Haas 1-21, Severtson 4-18, Hoyt 2-13, Klein 1-8, Reish 1-7.
KICKOFF RETURNS. Park Rapids: Z. Fritze 1-19, S. Fritze 2-15, Klein 1-9, Crist 1-2.