Blocked punts spark EGF's 32-14 win over Panthers
Ryan Kasowski knows the importance of special teams.
The head coach of the East Grand Forks football team emphasizes the key role of special teams during each practice. Focusing on that aspect of the game paid off Friday night as the Green Wave defense recorded a safety and blocked two punts that set up touchdowns in the first half. Those quick scores sparked a 32-14 victory over Park Rapids at East Grand Forks.
"We spend so much time on special teams. We have a coordinator for it," said Kasowski. "Special teams can make or break us. Those are huge momentum swings."
The Green Wave claimed the momentum on the first series of this rainy Section 8AAA and Midwest Red District game when the defense didn't allow a yard and forced Park Rapids into a punting situation. The snap sailed over the head of punter Zach Severtson, who fell on the ball in the end zone for a safety. EGF led 2-0 just 1:11 into the game.
On the ensuing kick, EGF took over at its own 36. Ethan Trebil quickly extended the Green Wave's lead by following runs of 9 and 7 yards with a 48-yard TD scamper. With 9:42 to play in the first quarter, EGF held an 8-0 lead.
EGF's defense allowed an 8-yard catch by Cameron Hoyt, but the Panthers were forced to punt again after three plays. The punt was blocked and recovered by Chase Olderback at the Park Rapids 11.
Quarterback Carter Beck followed a 7-yard run by Trebil with a 4-yard TD scamper and the Green Wave held a 14-0 lead with 7:58 to go in the first quarter.
"They took advantage of our mistakes and scored quickly. We had to fight back the whole night, but EGF made plays and we just could not get anything going," said Park Rapids head coach Aaron Morris. "Those big plays gave them a lot of momentum and they just rolled with it the whole game."
Park Rapids was held to no yards on the next series and had to punt again. The Green Wave used a 13-yard run by Trebil to reach the Park Rapids 22, but the defense stopped Trebil on fourth-and-1 as the Panthers regained possession.
An 8-yard run by Severtson and 9-yard gain by Jason Haas led to the Panthers' initial first down of the game, but that drive stalled and Park Rapids had to punt again.
An 11-yard carry by Beck and 16-yard run by Blake Farder drove EGF to the Park Rapids 29, but a sack forced the Green Wave to punt.
EGF's defense held and forced another punt and the Green Wave took over at the Park Rapids 30. Three plays later, Trebil broke free for a 24-yard TD run as EGF led 20-0 with 4:56 to play in the first half.
Park Rapids was forced to punt for the sixth time and EGF's special teams produced another big play when Beck blocked the kick and recovered the ball at the Park Rapids 3. Trebil's 1-yard TD run on third down gave EGF a 26-0 cushion at the 1:49 mark.
The Panthers threatened to score before the half when Haas broke free for a 20-yard run and a personal-foul penalty led to a first down at the EGF 30. A block-in-the-back penalty and interception ended that threat.
"Field position was a huge advantage for EGF and they capitalized on it," said Morris. "I think the weather had a big effect on the ball, but we also missed some key blocks."
Cody Dravis' 32-yard catch opened the Panthers' first possession of the second half, but that drive stalled and resulted in a punt.
EGF responded with a 23-yard run by Beck and a personal-foul penalty to march to the Park Rapids 13. That drive resulted in a missed 27-yard field goal attempt.
After both teams were forced to punt, the Panthers put together a nine-play, 55-yard scoring drive. A 14-yard catch by Dravis and 23-yard run by Severtson set up a 7-yard TD run by Severtson. Jeff Haas caught the conversion pass and the Panthers trailed 26-8 with 7:16 to play.
EGF recovered the ensuing onside kick and put together a seven-play, 42-yard scoring drive. Julian Benson capped off that drive with a 21-yard TD run as EGF led 32-8 with 3:48 remaining.
Jens Anderson took over at quarterback and ended the game by orchestrating a seven-play, 61-yard scoring drive. Anderson followed a 42-yard run with a 1-yard TD plunge as the Panthers concluded the scoring with 1:28 remaining.
The Panthers finished with 184 yards in offense and 10 first downs. Park Rapids rushed 34 times for 121 yards with Anderson (four carries for 53 yards) and Severtson (seven carries for 48 yards) leading the way. Jason Haas completed 5 of 10 passes for 63 yards with Dravis making three receptions for 47 yards.
EGF compiled 14 first downs and 287 yards rushing on 49 carries with Trebil leading the way with 19 carries for 152 yards and three TDs. Beck didn't attempt a pass in the rainy conditions.
The win lifted EGF to 1-2 on the season and 1-1 in district play while the Panthers fell to 0-2 in district games and 0-3 overall.
"Our defense played well, but when you give them a short field, it is hard to stop them all the time. We need to figure out a way to get our offense more consistent. The kids didn't give up. It was nice to get some points, but it would have been nice to get them earlier in the game," said Morris. "We have to figure out a way to extend drives instead of going 3-and-out. In the second half, they did much better and sustained some drives. Our second half was way better than the first."
In Friday night's other Section 8AAA games, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton dominated Thief River Falls in a 57-0 victory. Pequot Lakes led Perham 19-18 entering the fourth quarter when that game was called because of lightning. That game resumed Monday night. Perham leads the section standings at 2-0 while D-G-F is 2-1. Pequot Lakes (1-1), Thief River Falls (1-2), East Grand Forks and Park Rapids follow.
In the other district game, Fergus Falls defeated Detroit Lakes 27-17. Fergus Falls improved to 2-0 in the district and 2-1 overall while Detroit Lakes fell to 0-2 in the district and 0-3 overall.
Detroit Lakes (which opened the season with a 20-12 loss to Rocori and a 32-20 loss to Perham) faces Park Rapids this Friday night at Vern Weekley Field. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.
"We have a lot to fix this week and we have to figure out our offense. We are going to have some shake-ups this week and hopefully get things going in the right direction," said Morris. "DL is going to be tough and they're going to come ready to play. We just have to stay positive. I believe in each one of our players, but they need to believe in themselves. They need to play each game with heart and desire. The rest will take care of itself."
Park Rapids 0 0 0 14...14
East Grand Forks 14 12 0 6...32
EGF--Safety: Severtson tackled in end zone
EGF--Trebil 48 run (kick blocked)
EGF--Beck 4 run (run failed)
EGF--Trebil 24 run (run failed)
EGF--Trebil 1 run (run failed)
PR--Severtson 7 run (Jeff Haas pass from Jason Haas)
EGF--Benson 21 run (kick failed)
PR--Anderson 1 run (pass failed)
RUSHING. Park Rapids: Anderson 4-53, Severtson 7-48, Z. Fritze 4-11, Ja. Haas 8-11, Dravis 6-0, Persons 5-(-2). EGF: Trebil 19-152, Becker 14-52, Benson 7-47, Farder 4-23.
PASSING. Park Rapids: Je. Haas 5-10-1 for 63 yards.
RECEIVING. Park Rapids: Dravis 3-47, Persons 1-8, Hoyt 1-8.