An undesirable pattern has developed for the Park Rapids football team.
The combination of untimely turnovers and the inability to sustain drives on offense was evident again Friday night as Pequot Lakes forced four turnovers and piled up 441 yards in offense in a 55-8 Midwest Red District and Section 8AAA victory.
In the previous two games leading up to Pequot Lakes' homecoming game, the Panthers were held to 153 yards and had to punt seven times in a 48-6 loss to Detroit Lakes and were limited to 151 yards while punting seven more times in a 49-6 loss to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton. Park Rapids had two turnovers against Detroit Lakes and trailed 28-6 at the half while four turnovers helped D-G-F roll after building a 35-0 halftime lead.
Friday night's game was similar as the Panthers faced a 35-0 halftime deficit for the second week in a row while finishing with a fumble and three interceptions and only 162 yards in offense (including only 39 yards on 24 rushing attempts) while again punting seven times in falling to 0-4 against section teams and 0-6 on the season.
It was a balanced offensive attack that led the Patriots, who ran the ball 38 times for 246 yards and completed 12 passes for 195 yards to prevail.
"We had some very good drives, but then we made some mental mistakes that set us back. We had a few holding calls that took the wind out of our sails and we could never recover," said Park Rapids head coach Aaron Morris. "Our front guys did a good job in pass protection, but we have to continue to work on our running game. We have to figure out a way to not have so many 3-and-outs. As coaches, we need to find a way to sustain drives and keep our offense on the field. Our defense plays way too much and they get tired, which results in lack of technique. We can not expect them to be on the field for 2/3rds of the game. They play so hard, but when we go 3-and-out, they have to turn around and get on the field right away. They are getting tired mentally and physically."
After forcing Park Rapids to punt on the opening series, the Patriots opened the scoring with a seven-play, 71-yard scoring drive that was capped off with a 42-yard touchdown pass from Blake Lane to Austin Young. Chase Larson's kick failed as Pequot Lakes held a 6-0 lead with 7:51 to play in the first quarter.
The Panthers used an 18-yard catch by Jason Haas, 12-yard run by Jens Anderson and 20-yard catch by Tristin Persons on a screen pass on second-and-19 to reach the Pequot Lakes 28. But a fumble led to a 6-yard loss and eventually resulted in loss of possession at the Patriots' 29.
Both teams were forced to punt before the Patriots threatened as an 18-yard run by Lane led to a first-and-goal at the Park Rapids 7. The Panthers' defense held and ended that drive at the 2.
Pequot Lakes' defense forced another punt and Nathan Traut's 24-yard return to the Park Rapids 15 set up a 9-yard TD run by Calvin Maske on second down. Lane ran in the conversion as the Patriots led 14-0 with 7:57 to play in the first half.
The Patriots followed Park Rapids' fourth punt of the game with a five-play, 60-yard scoring march as Lane's 12-yard run and personal-foul penalty on the Panthers set up a 24-yard TD pass from Cale Wolf to Young. Larson's kick extended the lead to 21-0 at the 4:42 mark.
Park Rapids fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Patriots used a 28-yard catch by Dylin Ackerman to set up a 7-yard TD run by Lane. Larson's kick pushed the advantage to 28-0 with 3:23 left before the break.
Zach Severtson's 12-yard run produced a first down on the Panthers' next series, but that drive resulted in another punt.
Pequot Lakes took over at its own 27 with 1:22 remaining and produced a quick four-play, 73-yard scoring drive with a 26-yard catch by Young, a 29-yard run by Traut and a facemask penalty setting up a 10-yard TD pass from Lane to Maxx Schindel with 39 seconds showing. Larson booted the extra point as the Patriots carried a 35-0 lead into the half.
"The guys played hard in the first quarter and then Pequot Lakes made some plays," said Morris. "Looking back on film, our guys were in good position. Pequot Lakes just made the plays. We had the position, but the ball just found the way to the receiver."
Park Rapids gained some momentum by opening the second half with a fumble recovery at the Pequot Lakes 33. Severtson's halfback pass to Spencer Fritze for 15 yards and Nathan David's 11-yard reception led to Severtson's 9-yard TD reception from Anderson. Severtson ran in the conversion as the Panthers trailed 35-8 with 9:14 to play in the third quarter.
Traut broke free for a 26-yard run as the Patriots marched to the Park Rapids 36 on the ensuing series. Severtson ended that threat with an interception as the Panthers took over at their own 45. Anderson hit David on a 20-yard route, but Sam Scheuss intercepted a pass to end that threat.
Penalties helped Pequot Lakes pad its lead as a 13-yard reception by Young and 12-yard run by Lane were followed with a pass interference penalty and a personal-foul penalty for a horse-collar tackle as the Patriots reached the 20. Traut broke free for a 20-yard TD run and Larson added the kick for a 42-8 advantage with 4:12 remaining in the third quarter.
Park Rapids then relied on penalties by the Patriots to put together another scoring threat. A 10-yard catch by Severtson started the drive before a pass interference call and a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct after a roughing-the-passer penalty brought the ball to the Pequot Lakes 16. That drive ended when Colton Anderson picked off an Anderson pass.
On the Panthers' next series, Ackerman's interception and return to the Park Rapids 5 led to a 2-yard TD run by Lane. Larson's kick made it 49-8 with 8:36 remaining.
Following another Park Rapids punt, the Patriots concluded the scoring when James Brennan's 22-yard run was followed by a 41-yard TD run by Bode Magnuson. That five-play drive covered 66 yards and ended the scoring with 3:01 to go.
"At the half, I told the guys they need to focus on the game. I told them that these nights are going fast and you do not get them back. You need to play with heart and pride," said Morris. "I told them that if we just played the first and third quarters, we would be close to undefeated. We need to find a way to put a whole game together and quit having to come back from huge deficits."
Traut rushed 16 times for 116 yards and Lane completed 11 of 19 passes for 184 yards. Young caught four of those passes for 105 yards as Pequot Lakes was victorious for the third week in a row. Pequot Lakes was whistled for nine penalties for 100 yards while compiling 26 first downs.
Anderson completed 12 of 24 passes for 108 yards with Persons (four catches for 28 yards) and David (three catches for 37 yards) being the primary targets. Park Rapids' running game was shut down as the Panthers finished with 12 first downs and nine penalties for 105 yards.
"Jens had a nice game and he is learning. We knew that it was going to be a learning curve with a sophomore quarterback, but I am happy with the progress he is making," said Morris. "I know people say he has thrown interceptions, but he just needs to get comfortable in there and read the defense. He will be just fine with more games and practice."
In Friday night's other Section 8AAA games, Perham defeated East Grand Forks 45-12, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton defeated Detroit Lakes 35-21 and Fergus Falls shut out Thief River Falls 42-0. Perham (3-0 against section teams) improved to 5-1 while Pequot Lakes (2-1 in the section) and D-G-F (3-1 in section games) both improved to 4-2. East Grand Forks (2-2 in section play) fell to 2-4 while Thief River Falls (1-3 in the section) fell to 1-5.
Fergus Falls and Perham are tied atop the district standings at 5-1 with D-G-F and Pequot Lakes tied for third at 4-2. Following are East Grand Forks (2-4), Detroit Lakes (1-5) and Thief River Falls (1-5).
Park Rapids will play Fergus Falls in its final regular-season home game Friday night. Kickoff for Senior Night is set for 7 p.m. at Vern Weekley Field.
"Fergus Falls has a nice quarterback and tough receivers, so they are going to pass the ball a lot. They also have a nice running game. It is hard to play a AAAA school that is a class ahead of you, but we will do our best and compete," said Morris. "Hopefully we will put a full game together. Our guys play so well for half a game and then the wheels come off. They need to start believing in each other and enjoying the time they have left. It will be Senior Night, so this will be the last time these seniors will play on this field. There will be a lot of emotions, but I just want them to play with heart, pride and desire. I know we are 0-6, but I am proud of how they compete each week and in practice. They just need to enjoy the moments now because they go fast."
Park Rapids 0 0 8 0...8
Pequot Lakes 6 29 7 13...55
PL--Young 42 pass from Lane (kick failed)
PL--Maske 9 run (Lane run)
PL--Young 24 pass from Wolf (Larson kick)
PL--Lane 7 run (Larson kick)
PL--Schindel 10 pass from Lane (Larson kick)
PR--Severtson 9 pass from Anderson (Severtson run)
PL--Traut 20 run (Larson kick)
PL--Lane 2 run (Larson kick)
PL--Magnuson 41 run (run failed)
RUSHING. Park Rapids: Severtson 2-14, Persons 12-13, Anderson 4-11, Dravis 1-6, Bessman 2-1, Je. Haas 1-1, Klein 1-0, Ja. Haas 1-(-7). Pequot Lakes: Traut 16-116, Lane 12-50, Maske 8-41.
PASSING. Park Rapids: Anderson 12-24-3 for 108 yards; Severtson 1-1-0 for 15 yards. Pequot Lakes: Lane 11-19-1 for 171 yards; Wolf 1-3-0 for 24 yards.
RECEIVING. Park Rapids: Persons 4-28, David 3-37, Severtson 3-19, Ja. Haas 1-18, S. Fritze 1-15, Bessman 1-6. Pequot Lakes: Young 4-105, Traut 4-39, Schindel 2-23, Ackerman 1-28.