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W-DC holds on, tops Panthers in opener

Kyle Kanten (28), Levi Erickson (6) and Brandon Ritter (77) wrapped up W-DC's Logan Meyer during Friday night's season opener.1 / 2
Park Rapids' offensive line provided the blocks that enabled quarterback Ian Johnson to roll out during the first quarter of Friday night's season opener against Wadena-Deer Creek at Vern Weekley Field.2 / 2

For the third year in a row, the outcome of the Wadena Deer-Creek vs. Park Rapids football game came down to the final play of the game.

The only difference this year was the outcome wasn't decided in overtime.

The 2010 season opener had a chance to go into overtime, but W-DC's defense batted down a pass just across the goal line as time expired to preserve a 19-13 victory Friday night at Vern Weekley Field.

Park Rapids capitalized on two turnovers to forge a 13-13 tie at the half before the Wolverines turned a blocked punt into the game-winning score early in the fourth quarter to open the season with a win.

"We had plenty of opportunities, but we kept shooting ourselves in the foot," said Park Rapids head coach Aaron Morris, whose team defeated W-DC 14-8 in overtime in the 2008 season opener and 13-7 in overtime to open the 2009 season. "Wadena played with a lot of emotion. They wanted it more."

After forcing the Panthers to punt on the opening series, W-DC took a quick 7-0 lead when Taylor Bienusa broke free for a 63-yard touchdown run on the Wolverines' first play from scrimmage. Kenny Sakry's kick gave the Wolverines the early lead with 9:39 to play in the first quarter.

W-DC forced another Park Rapids punt and threatened to score again when a 19-yard run by Jacob Wegscheid led to a first down at the Panthers' 13. The Wolverines had a first-and-goal at the 3, but Christian Ridlon recovered a fumble and returned it to the 42 to end that threat.

Park Rapids' offense stalled at the W-DC 49, but the Panthers' defense held and forced a punting situation. A bad snap on the punt was recovered by Park Rapids at the W-DC 28.

The Panthers capitalized on that mistake when quarterback Ian Johnson scored from 1-yard out on fourth down to cap an eight-play drive. Dan Pike's kick tied the game at 7-7 with 8:23 remaining in the first half. A 4-yard run by Forrest Drury, an 8-yard run by Colin Vaadeland, two carries by Pike for 10 yards, and a 4-yard run by Vaadeland set up Johnson's TD plunge.

Another fumble on W-DC's next possession helped the Panthers take the lead. Kyle Kanten recovered the loose ball at the Wolverines' 16 and once again Johnson capped the short drive with a 1-yard keeper on fourth down. Pike rushed twice for 11 yards and Vaadeland followed a penalty with a 7-yard run to the 1 to set up Johnson's second TD of the game. The extra-point kick failed, but the Panthers had a 13-7 lead with 4:33 to play in the first half.

W-DC put together what proved to be the only sustained scoring drive of the night to tie the game just before halftime. A 13-yard pass play from Colter Pettit to Josh Sherman, runs of 18 and 9 yards by Logan Meyer, and a 21-yard run by Wegscheid set up a 10-yard scoring pass from Pettit to Sherman to cap a nine-play, 72-yard scoring march. The kick failed, but W-DC was able to tie the game with 33 seconds to play before the half.

"Their first play from scrimmage took the wind out of our sails, but the kids battled back and took the lead," said Morris. "There were times where we played to our potential and other times we played on our heels."

Park Rapids opened the second half by recovering another fumble to stop another W-DC scoring threat.

A 9-yard run by Meyer, a 16-yard reception by Bienusa and a 22-yard run by Pettit drove the Wolverines deep into Park Rapids territory, but Pettit fumbled at the end of his long run and Cory Odland recovered at the 14.

Pike rushed twice for 13 yards, Drury had a 5-yard carry and W-DC was drawn offsides on fourth-and-2 at the 37 as the Panthers approached midfield. Drury gained 10 yards on a pass play, but fumbled. W-DC recovered the loose ball at its own 46.

An unsportsmanlike penalty and two carries by Meyer for 10 yards led to a first down at the Park Rapids 20. However, the Panthers held on fourth down and took over at the 16.

W-DC's defense forced a punt, which Nolan Johnson blocked and recovered at the Park Rapids 11.

On the next play, Wegscheid scored what proved to be the winning touchdown. With 11:08 to play, the Wolverines held a 19-13 advantage.

The Panthers used a late-hit penalty to reach the W-DC 32, but later lost possession on downs at the 23.

After forcing the Wolverines to punt, the Panthers used a 33-yard pass play from Johnson to Cole Tretbar to reach the W-DC 19. But two plays later, the Panthers fumbled and W-DC took over at the 19.

Meyer rushed three times for 21 yards as W-DC approached midfield. Park Rapids' defense held and forced a punt with 35 seconds to play.

Park Rapids' defense blocked the punt, which rolled out of bounds at the 35. An 18-yard scramble by Johnson, a 10-yard catch by Kyle Goplerud and a 3-yard run by Johnson led the Panthers to the W-DC 3. After a motion penalty pushed the ball back to the 8, W-DC's defense knocked down a pass on the final play of the game to preserve the win.

The Panthers finished with 202 yards in offense with Pike rushing 16 times for 66 yards and Johnson completing 4 of 8 passes for 58 yards. Defensively, Park Rapids allowed 314 yards.

"We have room for improvement, but overall I was happy with the way we played," said Morris. "There were times we were in position, but we didn't make the play. The mistakes we made are correctible."

The Panthers travel to Perham this Friday night for the Section 8AAA opener. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.


W-DC-Bienusa 63 run (Sakry kick)

PR-Johnson 1 run (Pike kick)

PR-Johnson 1 run (kick failed)

W-DC-Sherman 10 pass from Pettit (kick failed)

W-DC-Jacob Wegscheid 11 run (kick failed)


RUSHING: Pike 16-66, Vaadeland 13-28, Drury 8-26, Johnson 5-24.

PASSING: Johnson 4-8-0 for 58 yards.

RECEIVING: Tretbar 1-33, K. Goplerud 1-10, Drury 1-10, Vaadeland 1-5.