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Panthers' defense dominates

Tom Ahrendt always challenges the defense of the Park Rapids football team to not allow any points. The Panthers picked an ideal time to record their second shutout of the season. Park Rapids' defense held Crookston to only 119 yards in total off...

Tom Ahrendt always challenges the defense of the Park Rapids football team to not allow any points.

The Panthers picked an ideal time to record their second shutout of the season.

Park Rapids' defense held Crookston to only 119 yards in total offense and produced three big plays with a fumble recovery and two blocked punts to spark a 38-0 win in a Section 8AAA quarterfinal playoff game Wednesday night at Vern Weekley Field.

The Panthers scored on their first five possessions in building a 32-0 lead at the half in eliminating Crookston from the section playoffs for the second consecutive season. Park Rapids defeated the Pirates 13-6 in last year's section quarterfinal game and 35-13 during the regular season this year.

"Our focus is always on shutting the other team out," said Ahrendt, whose team is second in the state Class AAA rankings by allowing only 7.4 points per game. "The kids were prepared and ready to play."

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On the opening series, it took the Panthers only four plays and 1:20 off the clock to march 80 yards. Caleb Brown broke free for a 68-yard TD run to give the Panthers a quick 7-0 lead.

Nick Abraham recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and the Pan-thers had possession at the Crookston 34. On the next play, Kevin Vaadeland sprinted into the end zone and Park Rapids held a 13-0 advantage with 10:30 remaining in the first quarter.

Crookston used a 36-yard pass from Ethan Hulst to Cody Holtman to reach the Park Rapids 35, but the Panthers' defense held and forced a punt.

Park Rapids took over at its own 20 and extended its lead with an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive. Vaade-land rushed for 12 yards, Brown picked up 4 yards on fourth-and-2 at the Park Rapids 41, and Vaadeland had a 40-yard carry to the 11. Three plays later, Brown plunged in from 2 yards out and the Panthers had a 19-0 lead with 2:39 to play in the first quarter.

The Pirates picked up a first down, but were forced to punt again. Kevin Mc-Morrow broke through the line and blocked the kick by Hulst, which the Pan-thers recovered at the Crookston 6.

Koeller followed a 5-yard gain with a 1-yard TD run and Park Rapids had a 25-0 lead with 11:25 to play in the first half.

An offensive pass interference penalty forced the Pirates to punt on their next series and Park Rapids' defense delivered again when Chris Hemen-way blocked Hulst's punt attempt. This time the Panthers recovered the ball at the Crookston 11, which set up a 6-yard TD run by Koeller. With 9:22 to go in the first half, the Panthers held a 32-0 lead.

Alan Mart returned the ensuing kickoff to the Park Rapids 46 and Isaac Edlund followed with an 11-yard run as the Pirates reached the Panthers' 35. But two sacks resulted in another Crookston punt.

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Crookston's defense forced the Panthers to punt and used a pair of 13-yard runs by Hulst to reach the Park Rapids 37 as the first half ended.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, although the Panthers used a 16-yard pass from Grant Dierkhising to Dylan Walsh and a 21-yard run by Dierkhising to reach the Crookston 19. Baba Maiga stopped that drive with an interception.

Crookston used a facemask penalty to reach the Park Rapids 48, but that drive resulted in a punt.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Panthers used a 40-yard punt return by Curtis Tolle to reach the Pirates' 33. The Panthers' reserves took over and lost possession on downs.

Park Rapids' defense stopped Crookston on a fourth-and-3 play and regained possession at the 37. Justin Peterson followed a 26-yard run with a 5-yard TD run to end the scoring with 4:33 to play.

The Panthers recovered the ensuing kickoff and used three carries by Jake Grimes for 17 yards to help run out the clock.

Vaadeland led a balanced offensive attack with 98 rushing yards on six carries. Brown finished with 88 yards on seven carries and Koeller had 51 yards on 15 attempts as the Panthers improved to 7-2 on the year.

The Pirates amassed only 62 yards on the ground without leading rusher Josh Thomas, who sat out most of the game with a back injury. Hulst led Crookston's offense with 30 yards rushing and 57 yards passing as the Pirates ended the season with a 4-5 record.

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Park Rapids, the No. 4 seed in the section, will play at No. 1 Thief River Falls tonight (Saturday) at 7. Thief River Falls, which is ranked No. 5 in the latest state Class AAA poll, defeated No. 8 East Grand Forks 43-8 Tuesday night. The winner of this semifinal game advances to the Section 8AAA championship game Nov. 2 at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.

"It's going to be a fun game," said Ahrendt. "I like our chances. If we don't make any mistakes and if we have everybody do their job, there is no doubt in my mind that we can beat those guys and be playing for the section championship."

Crookston 0 0 0 0 .0

Park Rapids 19 13 0 6 38

SCORING

PR-Brown 68 run (Dierkhising kick)

PR-Vaadeland 34 run (kick failed)

PR-Brown 2 run (run failed)

PR-Koeller 1 run (pass failed)

PR-Koeller 6 run (Dierkhising kick)

PR-Peterson 5 run (run failed)

TEAM STATISTICS

C PR

First downs 8 14

Rushing 30-62 46-321

Passing 5-15-0 1-7-1

Yards passing 57 16

Total net yards 119 337

Fumbles lost 4-1 3-0

Penalties-yards lost 5-50 3-25

OFFENSIVE STATISTICS

RUSHING. Crookston: Edlund 7-34, Hulst 9-30, Bittner 2-3, Thomas 1-(-5). Park Rapids: Vaadeland 6-98, Brown 7-88, Koeller 15-51, Peterson 3-32, Grimes 6-22, Dierkhising 3-19, Gray 3-3, Da. Ricke 1-3, McMorrow 1-(-2).

PASSING. Crookston: Hulst 5-15-0 for 57 yards. Park Rapids: Dierkhising 1-7-1 for 16 yards.

RECEIVING. Crookston: Holtman 2-44, Schoeneberger 1-8, Biermaier 1-4, Mart 1-1. Park Rapids: Walsh 1-16.

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