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Perham holds off Panthers

Park Rapids' Tyler McCollum tried to shake off a tackle by Perham's Brandon Olson during Friday night's Section 8AAA championship game at the Fargodome.

Jordan Hein has been a double threat for the Perham football team all season.

During the Section 8AAA championship game against Park Rapids Friday night at the Fargodome, Hein was a triple threat.

The senior quarterback rushed 27 times for 217 yards and three touchdowns, completed 8 of 17 passes for 156 yards and two TDs and returned an interception for another score in leading the Yellowjackets to a 51-26 victory.

After Friday night's game, Hein has rushed for 1,554 yards and 20 TDs and passed for 1,050 yards and 13 TDs this season in leading the Yellowjackets to their sixth state tournament appearance.

"Perham is a very good team and Hein is a special athlete," said Park Rapids head coach Aaron Morris. "You're not going to slow Hein down. You can only hope to contain him. We were able to contain him at times, but when we didn't, he capitalized on it."

In addition to not containing Hein, the Panthers were hurt by one crucial holding call and three interceptions in their first appearance in a section title game since 1985.

The top-seeded Yellowjackets (who defeated No. 2 Park Rapids 34-12 in Week 2 of the regular season) saw the Panthers rally from a 25-6 halftime deficit to within 31-26 before three TDs in the fourth quarter sealed the win.

On the opening kickoff, Zach Eystad's 40-yard return gave the Panthers a first down at the Perham 45. That drive stalled and the Yellowjackets took over at their own 38.

Hein started a 10-play, 62-yard scoring drive by rushing for 15 yards, hitting Josh Nordick on a 9-yard pass and finding Tyler Glines on a 19-yard route to the Park Rapids 10. Hein capped off the drive with a 4-yard TD run on third down. Nick Bahls' kick gave Perham a 7-0 lead with 6:41 to play in the first quarter.

Park Rapids was forced to punt on the next series and the Yellowjackets took over at the Panthers' 34. Bahls broke free for a 34-yard TD run on the next play and Perham had a 13-0 lead with 5:29 remaining in the first quarter.

After both teams exchanged punts, the Panthers regained possession at their own 15. A personal-foul penalty negated an interception by Perham's Cole Schmitz and the Panthers used a 15-yard pass from Tyler McCollum to Kyle Goplerud and a personal-foul penalty to reach the 40. After a holding penalty took away a 60-yard TD pass from McCollum to Eystad, McCollum found David Dirks for a 13-yard gain to the 43. Again Perham's defense held and forced another punt.

The Yellowjackets threatened again as a 13-yard pass from Hein to Glines, a 15-yard run by Hein and a 9-yard gain by Payton Jordahl led to a first down at the Park Rapids 27. Hein fumbled on the next play and Cory Gartner recovered at the 12.

Hein atoned for that turnover by intercepting a pass and returning it 22 yards for a touchdown. With 7:46 to play before halftime, Perham held a 19-0 lead.

Park Rapids responded with a seven-play, 61-yard drive to close the gap to 19-6 with 6:02 to play in the first half. A 27-yard pass from McCollum to Ian Johnson, a 15-yard run by Gartner, and a 20-yard pass from McCollum to Johnson set up a 1-yard TD plunge by Dirks.

Both teams exchanged punts before the Yellowjackets scored again before the end of the half. Consecutive 11-yard runs by Jordahl and Hein, a 9-yard gain by Eli Beachy, a 4-yard run by Jordahl on fourth-and-1, and a 22-yard pass from Hein to Josh Nordick set up a 12-yard TD pass from Hein to Beachy. That 12-play, 76-yard drive gave Perham a 25-6 cushion with 18 seconds remaining.

Eystad returned the ensuing kickoff 37 yards to midfield, but two incomplete passes ended the half.

"I think the kids were in awe of playing in the Fargodome. We had never played in a big game like this and you could tell Perham had been here before," said Morris. "We came out flat, but once we got beyond that, we played the way we know how to play."

Park Rapids' quick-striking offense produced two quick touchdowns to open the second half as the Panthers got back in the game.

On the opening series, Jordahl followed a 17-yard gain with a 27-yard gain as the Yellowjackets reached the Park Rapids 20. Park Rapids' defense held and the Panthers took over at their own 25.

After Gartner's 8-yard run produced a first down, McCollum hit Eystad on a 59-yard scoring route. Gartner ran in the conversion as the Panthers cut the gap to 25-14 at the 8:32 mark with a five-play, 75-yard drive.

A 12-yard run by Hein and a 15-yard pass from Hein to Bahls gave Perham a first down at the Park Rapids 31. On the next play, Andy Waller recovered a fumble by Jordahl and the Panthers had the ball at their own 33.

On the next play, Eystad broke free for a 67-yard TD and the Panthers trailed 25-20 with 5:18 remaining in the third quarter.

Hein stopped the Panthers' momentum by following a 15-yard gain with a 44-yard run to the Park Rapids 6. Two plays later, Hein ran in from 4 yards out and Perham held a 31-20 lead at the 3:11 mark.

Again the Panthers responded, marching 70 yards in only five plays. McCollum hit Johnson for 15 yards and 24 yards before the two connected on a 36-yard TD. That drive, which took only 1:24, made it 31-26 with 1:47 to play in the third quarter.

The rest of the game was controlled by the Yellowjackets.

Hein rushed four times for 24 yards before hitting Erick Brauch on a 34-yard route as Perham drove to the Park Rapids 6. Three plays later, Hein ran in from 1 yard out and the Yellowjackets led 37-26 with 7:53 to play. That 11-play, 73-yard drive took 5:54 off the clock.

McCollum opened the Panthers' next drive with a 12-yard run, but Jordahl picked off a pass at the Perham 46 to end that drive.

Jordahl gained 21 yards on the next play before Hein hit Glines on a 32-yard TD pass. Brauch's kick was good and Perham led 44-26 with 5:15 to play.

The Panthers used a 13-yard catch by Dirks, a 9-yard carry by Johnson and a 10-yard run by Dirks to reach the Perham 42. But Jordahl intercepted another pass at the 35 to end that drive.

Perham sealed the win with a quick three-play, 65-yard drive. Hein started the drive with an 11-yard run before Josh Still broke free for a 50-yard TD run. Brauch's kick ended the scoring with 2:14 left.

"We came back and had the momentum, but we ran out of gas," said Morris. "We did a lot of good things in this game and accomplished a lot of good things this season."

McCollum completed 10 of 22 passes for 226 yards with Johnson making five catches for 122 yards. Eystad rushed twice for 66 yards to lead the Panthers, who finished with 150 yards on the ground and 376 total yards in ending the season with a 5-6 record.

Jordahl rushed 16 times for 111 yards as Perham rushed for 437 yards. The Yellowjackets, who extended their winning streak over the Panthers to 17 straight games, finished with 593 yards in offense to advance to the state tournament for the second year in a row with a 9-1 record.

"The kids can hang their heads high. Nobody expected us to get this far except us," said Morris, whose team ends the season with 5-6 record. "Playing for the section title in the Fargodome is a huge accomplishment for the program. It was nice to see all the hard work by the kids pay off. They should be proud of all the things we accomplished this year."

Park Rapids 0 6 20 0...26

Perham 13 12 6 20.....51


P-Hein 4 run (Bahls kick)

P-Bahls 34 run (kick failed)

P-Hein 22 interception return (pass failed)

PR-Dirks 1 run (kick blocked)

P-Beachy 12 pass from Hein (run failed)

PR-Eystad 59 pass from T. McCollum (Gartner run)

PR-Eystad 67 run (run failed)

P-Hein 4 run (kick failed)

PR-I. Johnson 36 pass from T. McCollum (pass failed)

P-Hein 1 run (kick failed)

P-Glines 32 pass from Hein (Brauch kick)

P-Still 50 run (Brauch kick)


RUSHING. Park Rapids: Eystad 2-66, Dirks 5-24, Gartner 8-22, I. Johnson 10-15, Burlingame 2-10, T. McCollum 4-8, Olson 1-4, Massie 2-1. Perham: Hein 27-217, Jordahl 16-111, Still 2-57, Bahls 2-38, Beachy 1-9, Erickson 3-7, Olson 1-1, Sailer 1-0.

PASSING. Park Rapids: T. McCollum 10-22-3 for 226 yards; I. Johnson 0-0-0 for 0 yards. Perham: Hein 8-17-0 for 156 yards.

RECEIVING. Park Rapids: I. Johnson 5-122, Dirks 2-26, K. Goplerud 2-19, Eystad 1-59. Perham: Glines 3-64, Nordick 2-31, Brauch 1-34, Bahls 1-15, Beachy 1-12.

KICKOFF RETURNS. Park Rapids: Eystad 8-182, Severtson 1-29. Perham: Beachy 4-65, Olson 1-14.

PUNT RETURNS. Park Rapids: None. Perham: Hein 1-12.