Panthers rally for 14-12 win

Despite giving up 359 yards and 17 first downs to Roseau's offense, it was Park Rapids' defense that was the difference in a 14-12 homecoming football victory Friday night at Vern Weekley Field.

Despite giving up 359 yards and 17 first downs to Roseau's offense, it was Park Rapids' defense that was the difference in a 14-12 homecoming football victory Friday night at Vern Weekley Field.

Roseau gained 344 yards and drove inside the Panthers' red zone on its first five possessions. However, a sack on fourth down, a tackle at the 2 as the first half expired and an interception at the 3 on the first drive of the third quarter ended three of those drives.

After taking a 14-12 lead with 1:27 to play, the Panthers recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff to help preserve the win in this battle of Heart O'Lakes Conference and Section 8AAA teams.

Park Rapids' offense made big plays all night, but had problems finishing off long drives. The Panthers drove deep into Roseau territory on their first five possessions, but managed only one touchdown.

Trailing 12-8, Park Rapids' defense forced the first punt of the game and the Panthers took over at the Roseau 33 with 2:08 to play. Three plays and a holding penalty later, Park Rapids faced a fourth-and-19.


That's when quarterback Dylan Walsh produced his fourth big play of the game, hitting Kevin Vaadeland on a 42-yard TD pass down the left sideline to give the Panthers a 14-12 lead with 1:27 to play.

On the ensuing kickoff, Colin Vaadeland recovered a fumble at the Roseau 29. A 23-yard run by Kevin McMorrow on third down helped the Panthers run out the clock to seal the victory.

"This was a big win," said Park Rapids head coach Tom Ahrendt. "Our kids stepped up and made the big plays at the right time. You have to have special kids to make plays like that."

Both teams had plenty of big plays all night, but had trouble finding the end zone.

Park Rapids took the opening kickoff and marched to the Roseau 21 before losing possession on downs. Kevin Vaadeland had a pair of 10-yard runs and Walsh had an 11-yard carry on that 12-play drive that consumed almost six minutes.

Roseau responded with a 14-play, 79-yard drive to open the scoring. Quarterback Kevin Erickson rushed six times for 34 yards and Lyle Norman had a pair of carries for 28 yards to set up a 1-yard TD plunge by Norman. The extra-point kick was blocked by Dylan Sievers, but the Rams had a 6-0 lead. The Rams took 6:04 off the clock to score with only :04 remaining in the first quarter.

Walsh returned the ensuing kickoff to the Park Rapids 43 and the Panthers used an 18-yard run by Kevin Vaadeland and three carries by McMorrow for 19 yards to reach the Roseau 9. A fumble on the next play was recovered by Roseau at the 11.

Erickson broke free for a 57-yard run as the Rams reached the Park Rapids 9. That drive ended when Justin Peterson sacked Erickson on fourth down as the Panthers took over at the 19.


Walsh hit Tucker Coborn on a 53-yard route to give the Panthers a first down at the Roseau 17. Three plays later, Vaadeland ran in from 9 yards out to tie the game. Vaadeland followed by running in the 2-point conversion as Park Rapids took an 8-6 lead with 1:29 to play in the first half. That scoring drive took only six plays and covered 81 yards.

Roseau mounted another scoring threat as Erickson hit Zach Robinson for a 21-yard gain and scampered 22 yards to the Park Rapids 2. However, time expired on that run and the Panthers carried the lead into the break.

The Rams took the opening kickoff of the second half and put together another impressive drive. Erickson had runs of 15 and 29 yards as Roseau marched to the Park Rapids 21. An 8-yard catch by Ryan Petersen led to a first down at the 8. Three plays later, Dan Ricke intercepted an Erickson pass at the 3 and returned it to the 20 to stop that drive.

Walsh broke free for a 53-yard run as the Panthers reached the Roseau 23. The Rams' defense held and Roseau took over at the 23.

Erickson sparked a 15-play, 77-yard scoring drive as Roseau reclaimed the lead. Norman rushed three times for 12 yards before Erickson rushed for 16 yards, hit Ethan Kvidt on a 19-yard route and found Petersen for a 12-yard gain on fourth-and-6 for a first down at the 11. On fourth down, Petersen scored from 5 yards out and Roseau had a 12-8 lead with 8:55 to go.

The Panthers quickly responded as a 61-yard run by Walsh led to a first down at the Roseau 10. On fourth down, Walsh was sacked and Roseau took over at the 6 with 4:56 left.

After picking up a first down, Roseau's offense was stopped at the 21 and the Rams had to punt. Park Rapids took over at the 35 and overcame a holding penalty to score the winning touchdown on Walsh's perfectly thrown pass to Vaadeland.

Erickson rushed for 204 yards and threw for another 87 yards to lead the offense for Roseau, which fell to 1-1 in the conference standings and 2-2 overall.


Walsh rushed seven times for a career-high 121 yards and passed for another 104 yards to lead the Panthers. McMorrow and Kevin Vaadeland combined for 133 yards rushing while Coborn had two catches for 61 yards.

"The exciting thing is these guys haven't played up to their potential yet," said Ahrendt. "We're still making a lot of mistakes and we're not hitting on all cylinders yet. We still have a lot of improvement we can make. We're looking for the kids to keep improving and not be satisfied. We need to keep working hard and step it up to the next level."

The win kept Park Rapids tied for first in the conference standings with Pequot Lakes and Perham with 2-0 records and in second place in the section standings with a 3-1 record and 40 points. Warroad is 4-0 and leads the section standings with 42 points.

The Panthers travel to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (2-2) this Friday night in another key section game. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

What To Read Next
Get Local