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Two big plays by Thompson spark Lakers' 42-14 win over Panthers

Jerry Engst's 47-yard catch and run on the first series help give Park Rapids a quick 6-0 lead at Detroit Lakes Friday night. The host Lakers responded with 42 unanswered points in a 42-14 victory. Robert Williams / Forum News Service

Park Rapids used a big pass play to take the early lead against Detroit Lakes Friday night at Mollberg Field.

The host Lakers would control the rest of the game.

Isaiah Thompson responded with two big plays of his own to change the momentum and spark the Lakers to a 42-14 victory in a Midwest Red District football game.

Thompson's 82-yard kickoff return and 86-yard touchdown run on consecutive plays turned a 6-0 deficit into a 14-6 lead as the Lakers scored 42 unanswered points to remain undefeated on the season.

The junior speedster continued his big-play production this season. Thompson rushed 26 times for 211 yards and a TD in the Lakers' season-opening win over Rocori. Thompson also had gains of 55 and 40 yards to set up TDs in that game. In a 36-30 win over Perham, Thompson gained 109 yards on 25 carries with a TD. Thompson rushed 17 times for 312 yards and three TDs in the first half in Detroit Lakes' 49-7 win over Fergus Falls. The Lakers rushed for 630 yards in that win as Thompson scored on runs of 48 and 40 yards and added runs of 43 and 66 yards.

"Thompson is a very solid running back," said Park Rapids head coach Jeremy Nordick. "We worked all week and talked about getting multiple guys to the tackle on him. Credit to his offensive line for bringing a high level of physicality to create some holes for him."

Nordick couldn't have asked for a better start to the game when Jerry Engst sacked Detroit Lakes quarterback Max Gunderson for a 14-yard loss on the first play from scrimmage. That forced a punt and the Panthers gained possession at midfield.

On the Panthers' second play, Jens Anderson hit Engst on a 47-yard catch and run to the Detroit Lakes 1-yard line. Detroit Lakes' defense held until Anderson plunged over from the 2 on fourth-and-goal. The conversion failed after that six-play drive, but Park Rapids held a 6-0 lead with 7:43 to play in the first quarter.

Thompson quickly changed the momentum by returning the ensuing kickoff 82 yards. Braeden Wimmer's kick gave the Lakers a 7-6 lead at the 7:31 mark.

Cameron Hoyt's 11-yard reception gave the Panthers a first down at their own 49, but Detroit Lakes' defense held and forced a punt.

The Lakers took over at their own 14 and Thompson extended the lead with an 86-yard TD run on the next play. Wimmer's kick made it 14-6 with 4:23 left in the first quarter.

After forcing another Park Rapids punt, the Lakers responded with an 11-play, 81-yard scoring drive with Thompson scoring from 1 yard out and Wimmer adding the kick for a 21-6 advantage with 10:30 remaining in the first half. Gabe Hanninen's 6-yard run on fourth-and-1 at the Detroit Lakes 28, Jackson Field's 7-yard carry on fourth-and-2 at the Lakers' 42 and Reed Mace's 48-yard run set up that score.

A holding penalty forced another punt by the Panthers. However, a bad snap on the punt resulted in Spencer Fritze being tackled by Fields in the end zone for a safety. That extended the Lakers' lead to 23-6 at the 8:28 mark.

Detroit Lakes quickly added to its lead by taking the ensuing free kick and marching 52 yards in only three plays. A 34-yard catch by Jake Bettcher set up a 14-yard TD run by Mace. Wimmer's kick made it 30-6 with 7:26 to play in the first half.

Another 11-yard catch by Hoyt gave the Panthers a first down on their next series, but again Detroit Lakes' defense held and forced a punt.

The Lakers took over at their own 32 and overcame a holding penalty to end the half with another score. Gabe Hanninen followed a 15-yard run on first-and-17 with a 40-yard scamper to the Park Rapids 20. After Mace was tackled for a 5-yard loss, Gunderson hit Bettcher on a 25-yard scoring route as the Lakers led 36-6 with 2:38 remaining before the intermission.

Will Green ended the half by intercepting an Anderson pass at midfield.

Sully Wood opened the second half by intercepting an Anderson pass and returning to the Park Rapids 7. After a fumble pushed the ball back to the 11, Gunderson hit Jake Kerzman on an 11-yard scoring route on third-and-goal. Wimmer's kick was blocked, but the Lakers held a 42-6 lead with 9:42 to play in the third quarter.

Detroit Lakes' reserves played the rest of the game.

Both teams exchanged punts before the Panthers concluded the scoring with a seven-play, 76-yard drive. Tristin Persons followed a 10-yard run with an 11-yard gain and Fritze rushed for 8 yards. Persons ended that drive by hauling in a screen pass from Anderson and sprinting 46 yards for the score. Persons ran in the conversion to end the scoring with 23 seconds to play in the third quarter.

The Lakers followed with an 11-play drive that consumed almost eight minutes and reached the Park Rapids 7. However, that drive stalled at the 25. Caleb David rushed twice for 18 yards, but Detroit Lakes regained possession on a fumble recovery and ran out the final 2:40.

Detroit Lakes, which was rated No. 5 in the latest state Class AAAA poll, finished with 345 yards in offense with Thompson gaining 97 yards on five carries, Hanninen rushing five times for 73 yards and Reed adding 68 yards on six attempts.

Park Rapids finished with 208 yards in offense with Anderson completing 8 of 17 passes for 127 yards. The Panthers managed only 81 yards on the ground.

"I was excited for us to go up against such a talented group. It does nothing but help us on both sides of the ball. Defensively, learning how to take proper angles to the tackle, getting off blocks and gang tackling. Offensively, putting ourselves in second-and-short to medium rather than second and long then having to execute on third down when you absolutely have to. I thought we did all of those things at times, but just not consistently enough. I was very pleased with how the game started. I was a little concerned as to how we'd come out just being in awe of that atmosphere, but we came out strong on defense, which was outstanding. Then to get a big play to get us up 6-0 was even better. Now our kids know that it has to be every play for all 48 minutes," said Nordick. "The Lakers are as advertised. I was really impressed with how they blocked to the whistle on offense and exploded to the ball on defense. There was no hesitation from that group at all. I am confident that they will be right there in the mix to represent 8AAAA at state when the time comes. I have a lot of respect for Coach Omang and what he's done with that program the last few years. They have built back up the Laker tradition of disciplined and physical football. They don't do anything special. They just line up and come after you. The ultimate goal of Park Rapids Panther football is to build that winning mentality that Detroit Lakes has established over the years."

The win gave Detroit Lakes a 3-0 record in district play and a 4-0 overall mark. In other district games Friday night, Perham defeated Thief River Falls 49-18, Fergus Falls defeated East Grand Forks 20-14 and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton edged Pequot Lakes 20-18. East Grand Forks and Perham improved to 2-1 in the district and 3-1 overall while D-G-F improved to 2-1 in district play and 2-2 overall. Park Rapids joined Pequot Lakes at 1-2 in the district and 2-2 overall. Fergus Falls is now 1-2 in district play and 1-3 overall while Thief River Falls fell to 0-3 in the district and 0-4 overall.

East Grand Forks and Perham sit atop the Section 8AAA standings at 3-1 with Park Rapids, Pequot Lakes and D-G-F at 2-2. Thief River Falls is 0-4.

The Panthers have another tough test this Friday night (Sept. 28) with a road game at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

"I am very proud of our guys. They have already overcome so much in this first half of the season," said Nordick. "This is a great test of their resiliency and I expect us to bounce back. DGF is always tough, especially at home. I think the big thing for the Panthers is to re-establish our identity. After a couple of tough losses, it's easy to lose some confidence. We are a very good football team and the focus this week will be to regain the swag."

Park Rapids 6 0 0 8...14

Detroit Lakes 14 22 6 0...42


PR--Anderson 2 run (run failed)

DL--Thompson 82 kickoff return (Wimmer kick)

DL--Thompson 86 run (Wimmer kick)

DL--Thompson 1 run (Wimmer kick)

DL--Safety: Fields tackled S. Fritze in end zone

DL--Mace 14 run (Wimmer kick)

DL--Bettcher 25 pass from Gunderson (kick failed)

DL--Kerzman 11 pass from Gunderson (kick blocked)

PR--Persons 46 pass from Anderson (Persons run)


RUSHING. Park Rapids: Persons 8-27, Anderson 8-18, C. David 2-18, Dravis 5-10, S. Fritze 2-8. Detroit Lakes: Thompson 5-97, Hanninen 5-73, Mace 6-68.

PASSING. Park Rapids: Anderson 8-17-2 for 127 yards. Detroit Lakes: Gunderson 5-5-0 for 83 yards; Tobkin 2-2-0 for 10 yards.

RECEIVING. Park Rapids: Persons 2-51, Engst 1-47, Hoyt 2-22, N. David 1-6, S. Fritze 1-3, Haas 1-1. Detroit Lakes: Bettcher 2-59.


TACKLES: Kruchowski 8, Dravis 7, S. Fritze 6, Hill 6, Engst 4, Persons 4, N. David 4, Reish 3, Haas 3, Arola 3, Hoyt 2, Scott 2, Crist 2, Stachowski 2, Hensel 1, Clark 1.

TACKLES FOR LOSS: S. Fritze 2, Arola 1.