Undefeated Panthers wear down Rams

Not allowing a big play helped the Park Rapids football team get off to a 2-0 start this season. During Friday night's Section 8AAA and Heart O'Lakes Conference game at Roseau, the Panthers' defense gave up two big plays. However, that defensive ...

Not allowing a big play helped the Park Rapids football team get off to a 2-0 start this season.

During Friday night's Section 8AAA and Heart O'Lakes Conference game at Roseau, the Panthers' defense gave up two big plays. However, that defensive unit made up for those mistakes by recovering three fumbles in the second half as Park Rapids remained undefeated on the season with a 24-14 victory.

Anthony Koeller's 9-yard TD run gave the Panthers an 8-6 lead at the half before Kevin Vaadeland scored on a pair of 15-yard runs in the second half to seal the win in this battle of two of the state's top-rated Class AAA teams. Park Rapids' defense gave up 367 yards, but allowed only two scores as the No. 13-ranked Panthers handed the No. 10-ranked Rams their first loss of the season.

"This is a huge win for us," said Park Rapids head coach Tom Ahrendt. "This ranks right up there with our (13-6) win over Crookston in the playoffs last year."

Despite being outgained 177 yards to 93 yards in the first half, the Panthers managed to carry an 8-6 lead into the break.


After a scoreless first quarter, the Panthers opened the scoring on Koeller's 9-yard TD run with 7:35 to play in the first half. A 7-yard catch by Lee Branstrom and a roughing-the-passer penalty gave the Panthers a first down at the Roseau 30. A 5-yard carry by Koeller, a 4-yard reception by Dylan Walsh and a 2-yard run by Koeller led to another first down at the 19. A 9-yard run by Vaade-land set up Koeller's TD run. Caleb Brown ran in the conversion to give Park Rapids the early lead.

Each team exchanged punts before Roseau scored late in the half. The Rams took over at their own 30 with 2:34 remaining in the second quarter when a 15-yard reception by Jason Fabian and a 9-yard run by Mike Lee set up a 39-yard TD strike from Lee to Fabian. The conversion pass failed, but Roseau had cut the deficit to 8-6 with 1:41 remaining.

On the next series, Fabian intercepted a Grant Dierkhising pass near midfield. The Rams reached the Park Rapids 24 before an incomplete pass near the end zone ended the half.

Park Rapids created the first break of the second half when the Panthers recovered a fumble at the Roseau 29. Vaadeland and Brown each had a 9-yard run, but that threat eventually ended at the Roseau 10.

On the next play, Dustin Moser broke free for a 90-yard TD run and Roseau had a 14-8 lead with 6:05 to play in the third quarter.

Roseau's defense forced the Panthers to punt, but Park Rapids regained possession on a fumble at the Rams' 42.

Koeller rushed four straight times for 27 yards before Vaade-land finished the drive with a 15-yard TD run. Vaadeland also ran in the conversion and the Panthers held a 16-14 advantage with 1:22 remaining in the third quarter.

Park Rapids' defense held and the Panthers took over at their own 40. A 5-yard run by Brown, an 8-yard carry by Koeller on third-and-6, a 22-yard run by Brown on third-and-4 and a 4-yard gain by Koeller set up Vaadeland's second 15-yard TD run. Koeller's conversion gave the Panthers a 24-14 lead with 7:54 to play.


Roseau responded with another scoring threat as Lee completed three passes for 52 yards as the Rams marched to the Park Rapids 16. That drive ended when a 30-yard field goal attempt failed.

The Rams marched to the Park Rapids 37 on their next series, but another fumble ended that threat.

Koeller then rushed three times for 19 yards for a pair of first downs as the Panthers ran out the clock.

Koeller rushed 22 times for 120 yards, Vaadeland had 70 yards on 10 carries and Brown added 58 yards on 14 tries as the Panthers compiled 255 yards in total offense.

"Our goal coming in was to set the tone early. We got off to a slow start, but we wore them down in the third and fourth quarters," said Ahrendt. "Our goal every week is to win the battle on the line and our line dominated in the second half. I'm happy for the kids. All their hard work is paying off. Now we have to keep things rolling."

The Panthers, who currently sit atop the conference standings and trail only Thief River Falls in the section standings, travel to East Grand Forks for another key conference and section game this Friday night.

Park Rapids 0 8 8 8 24

Roseau 0 6 8 0 .14



PR-Koeller 9 run (Brown run)

R-Fabian 39 pass from Lee (pass failed)

R-Moser 90 run (Lee run)

PR-Vaadeland 15 run (Vaadeland run)

PR-Vaadeland 15 run (Koeller run)




First downs 12 8

Rushing 49-243 28-170

Passing 3-13-1 12-27-0

Yards passing 12 197

Total net yards 255 367

Fumbles lost 0-0 3-3

Penalties-yards lost 3-12 3-30



RUSHING: Koeller 22-120, Vaadeland 10-70, Brown 14-58, Dierkhising 3-(-5).

PASSING: Dierkhising 3-13-1 for 12 yards.

RECEIVING: Branstrom 1-7, Walsh 1-4, Brown 1-1.

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