Panthers dominate in debut

Tom Ahrendt said a balanced offensive attack was needed to back up a stingy defense if the Park Rapids football team was going to be successful this season.

Tom Ahrendt said a balanced offensive attack was needed to back up a stingy defense if the Park Rapids football team was going to be successful this season.

The offense did its part by scoring three touchdowns and the defense picked up where it left off last season by allowing only one score as the Panthers opened the season with an 18-8 victory over Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Friday night at Vern Weekley Field.

The Panthers were sparked by a diversified offense that scored once on a pass and twice on short runs and a defense that stopped a drive inside the 1-yard line and forced two turnovers in the fourth quarter. Those were the keys as Park Rapids was victorious in its first Heart O'Lakes Conference game.

Park Rapids' defense forced the Rebels to punt on their first two possessions before the Panthers opened the scoring on a 49-yard drive. Derek Ricke's 7-yard run and a recovered fumble by Caleb Brown for a 7-yard gain set up a 27-yard touchdown pass from Grant Dierkhising to Dy-lan Walsh. That gave the Panthers a 6-0 lead with 3:05 to play in the first quarter.

On the ensuing series, D-G-F marched 68 yards in 10 plays to take the lead. A 15-yard run by Johnathon Molina, three carries for 30 yards by Justin Johnson and three carries for 15 yards by Taylor Yliniemi set up a 10-yard scoring route from Michael Nelson to Riley Nelson. Michael Nelson's conversion run gave the Rebels an 8-6 lead with 10:34 to play in the first half.


After forcing the Panthers to punt, D-G-F threatened to pad its lead by marching 54 yards in 10 plays. A 28-yard run by Michael Nelson, a 5-yard gain by Michael Nelson on fourth-and-4 at the 21, and back-to-back 5-yard gains by Johnson and Yliniemi gave the Rebels a first-and-goal at the 5. But the Panthers' defense held inside the 1 at the 2:48 mark and Park Rapids stayed within 8-6 at the half.

"That goal-line stand was huge," said Ahrendt. "Stopping them on fourth down was the play of the game."

The Panthers' offensive line of Eli Donatelle, Kyle Blanchard, Cory Kimball, Nate Malm, Cody Odland, Jake Swenson, Dylan Sie-vers and Lee Branstrom controlled play at the start of the third quarter by sparking a 12-play, 59-yard scoring drive.

Anthony Koeller rushed four straight times for 28 yards to open the drive. Dierkhising's 21-yard pass to Kevin Vaadeland on fourth-and-11 kept the drive alive before Koeller capped off the march by rushing four times for the final 11 yards, including a 2-yard TD plunge on fourth-and-1. The conversion failed, but Park Rapids held a 12-8 lead with 6:59 to go in the third quarter.

D-G-F was forced to punt after three plays and the Panthers used a pair of 7-yard gains by Brown to march to midfield. How-ever, that drive stalled and Park Rapids was forced to punt.

After each team was forced to punt again, the Panthers' defense helped seal the win when Bran-strom sacked Michael Nel-son and caused a fumble, which Sievers recovered at the D-G-F 38.

Koeller rushed four times for 34 yards, including a 17-yard gain, to give the Panthers a first-and-goal at the 4. The Rebels' defense held before Vaadeland plunged in from 1 yard out on fourth down as Park Rapids led 18-8 with 4:26 to play.

The Rebels mounted a threat when Michael Nelson scrambled for 13 yards and completed passes to Yliniemi for a 16-yard gain and Riley Nelson for a 12-yard gain for a first down at the Park Rapids 33. A holding penalty pushed the Rebels back, but Andy Fischer's 14-yard reception led to a fourth-and-5 at the 28. But Vaadeland sacked Michael Nelson and caused a fumble, which Justin Peterson recovered at the 38 with 1:13 to play.


Dierkhising kneeled down twice and the Panthers celebrated a season-opening win.

"The way we came back showed a lot of poise," said Ahrendt. "We had a lot of younger kids step up. Overall it was a good game for us."

Koeller led the Panthers' offense with 23 carries for 104 yards while Dierkhising completed 3 of 6 passes for 53 yards.

Molina, Johnson, Michael Nelson and Yliniemi combined for 127 yards on 36 carries while Nelson completed 6 of 10 passes for 62 yards.

"The kids were pretty excited," said Ahrendt. "We know we're going to be in another battle this week. We just need to keep things rolling."

Park Rapids will host Warroad Friday night in another conference game and the Section 8AAA opener. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Vern Weekley Field. A football feed will be held beginning at 5:30 p.m. north of the football field by the shed. Gate admission will be collected for individuals staying for the game.

D-G-F 0 8 0 0 .8

Park Rapids 6 0 6 6 18



PR-Walsh 27 pass from Dierkhising (run failed)

DGF-R. Nelson 10 pass from M. Nelson (Johnson run)

PR-Koeller 2 run (run failed)

PR-Vaadeland 1 run (run failed)


RUSHING. D-G-F: Molina 10-40, Johnson 11-37, M. Nelson 8-27, Yliniemi 7-23. Park Rapids: Koeller 23-104, Vaadeland 3-13, De. Ricke 2-12, Brown 9-10.

PASSING. D-G-F: M. Nelson 6-10-0 for 62 yards. Park Rapids: Dierkhising 3-6-0 for 53 yards.


RECEIVING. D-G-F: R. Nelson 3-31, Yliniemi 1-16, Fischer 1-14. Park Rapids: Walsh 1-27, Vaadeland 1-21, Brown 1-5.

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