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Perham capitalizes on miscues

Park Rapids quarterback Dan Pike (10) tried to shake off a tackle as Colin Vaadeland (8) and Christian Ridlon (66) pursued the play during Tuesday night's game. (John George / Perham Enterprise)1 / 2
Park Rapids' Forrest Drury broke up a pass intended for Perham's Ty Haverland Tuesday night. (Vance Carlson / Enterprise)2 / 2

Perham took advantage of ideal field position in the first half in building a 36-0 lead en route to a 36-22 victory over Park Rapids in the first round of the Section 8AAA football playoffs Tuesday night.

The Yellowjackets took possession in Park Rapids territory on their first four series and scored on their first six possessions to advance to the section semifinals.

On the opening series, the Panthers faced a fourth-and-17 at their own 19. Dan Pike punted to the Perham 45, but an illegal motion penalty forced another punt. A fumbled snap forced Pike to scramble, which resulted in a 7-yard gain.

Perham took over at the Park Rapids 21 and used a 20-yard pass from Ben Bucholz to Cody Soderstrom to set up a 1-yard quarterback keeper by Bucholz. At the 9:34 mark, Perham had a 6-0 lead.

The Yellowjackets regained possession when Ben Waldon intercepted a pass at the Park Rapids 49. Bucholz then found Waldon on a 49-yard scoring route on third down and Perham had a 12-0 lead with 7:59 to play in the first quarter.

Park Rapids used a 19-yard kickoff return by Paul Dirks, a 4-yard run by Kevin McMorrow, and carries of 5 and 3 yards by Colin Vaadeland to reach the 43. Perham's defense followed with two sacks to force a punt. Another fumbled snap forced Pike to scramble for a 10-yard gain and the Yellowjackets took over at the Park Rapids 42.

Bucholz hit Cody Soderstrom for a 37-yard gain and Chris Scheidecker followed with a 1-yard TD run on third down as Perham claimed an 18-0 lead with 3:14 to play in the opening quarter.

Perham's defense forced another punt and again Pike had to scramble. This time the Yellowjackets took over at the Park Rapids 14. Scheidecker broke free for a 14-yard TD run on the next play to give Perham a 24-0 lead with 1:09 remaining in the first quarter.

On the next series, Matt Dreyer intercepted a pass and Perham regained possession near midfield. A 35-yard pass from Gabe Pankonin to Tim Hermann set up a 13-yard TD run by Scheidecker as the Yellowjackets led 30-0 with 10:39 remaining in the first half.

Park Rapids recovered an onside kick at its own 47 and used a 6-yard run by Vaadeland, an 18-yard run by Pike and a 13-yard run by John Drury to reach the Perham 15. McMorrow was stopped on fourth-and-1 and the Yellowjackets took over at the 6.

A seven-play, 94-yard drive followed as Perham extended its lead. Bucholz hit Hermann for 19 yards, rushed for 13 yards and hit Scheidecker for a 31-yard gain. Scheidecker, who had an 18-yard carry, capped the drive with a 5-yard TD run. At the 5:19 mark, Perham held a 36-0 lead.

The Panthers responded with a nine-play, 59-yard drive. A 19-yard kickoff return by Pike, and rushes of 20 and 17 yards by Vaadeland led to a first down at the Perham 19. Drury capped off the drive with carries of 6 and 7 yards as the Panthers trailed 36-6 with 1:50 to play in the first half.

"They took advantage of our mistakes and executed the plays they needed to. They made things happen on special teams and we seemed to have no answer," said Park Rapids head coach Aaron Morris. "We could not block on punts, so we were giving them good field position all night. We needed to control the line of scrimmage and sustain long drives, but we started flat and could not execute. They are a good team, but I know our kids could have played better."

Park Rapids opened the second half with two quick scores.

On the opening series, the Panthers used an illegal block penalty and two tackles in the backfield to pin Perham at its own 1. Pike then tackled Pankonin in the end zone for a safety at the 10:32 mark.

On the ensuing series, the Panthers marched 44 yards in 10 plays. Pike and Drury each gained 4 yards before Pike hit McMorrow for a 6-yard gain on third down. A 9-yard run by Vaadeland was followed by an 11-yard gain by Pike. On fourth-and-goal at the 10, Pike found Forrest Drury in the end zone. Armando Padilla's kick made it 36-15 with 6:12 to play in the third quarter.

After forcing Perham to punt, the Panthers lost possession at their own 27 on a fumble. However, Park Rapids' defense stopped the Yellowjackets on downs.

Two penalties offset a 9-yard run by Vaadeland and an 11-yard carry by Pike and the Panthers were forced to punt again. Pike's kick was blocked and Perham took over at the Park Rapids 14.

Again Park Rapids' defense rose to the challenge as a sack by Billy Kimball enabled the Panthers to regain possession at the 10.

Perham used an interception by Jordan Hein and 24-yard return for a first down at the Park Rapids 27. But John Drury sacked Pankonin on fourth down and the Panthers took over at the 31.

McMorrow rushed four times for 20 yards and John Drury had two carries for 22 yards as the Panthers marched to the Perham 25. But a fumble ended that drive.

On the next play, Christian Ridlon recovered a fumble and the Panthers had the ball at the Perham 26. Pike and McMorrow connected on a 26-yard TD strike on the next play and Padilla's kick concluded the scoring with 3:22 to play.

Park Rapids stopped Perham on the next series and took over at 44 with 1:02 to play. Levi Erickson rushed for 10 yards, but Matt Shipman's interception and 30-yard return ended the game.

"(At halftime) we talked about not giving up and playing to the end no matter what the score is," said Morris. "I stressed the importance of having pride for your school, your team and yourself. I told the kids to play hard to the end and leave nothing on the field."

The Panthers finished with 294 yards in offense while allowing 272 total yards. However, the six turnovers and punting miscues proved costly.

John Drury led the offense with 89 yards on 19 carries. Pike had 74 yards on 16 carries and Vaadeland added 67 yards on 10 carries. Pike and Cole Tretbar combined to complete 3 of 14 passes for 42 yards. McMorrow caught two of those passes for 32 yards.

Bucholz completed 6 of 9 passes for 163 yards while Scheidecker had 50 yards on six carries as Perham improved to 8-1 on the season. Perham, which is ranked No. 9 in this week's state Class AAA poll, hosts undefeated Staples-Motley in a section semifinal game.

"The team did not give up, but kept fighting to the end. We finally played with some intensity. I am proud that the kids played to the end and finished with pride," said Morris, whose team ended with a 2-7 record. "I did not think the game would go like that, but you cannot make that many mistakes and expect to win."