Defense and special teams proved to be pivotal in Detroit Lakes’ 48-6 Midwest Red District victory over the Park Rapids football team at Vern Weekley Field on Friday, Sept. 6.
The Lakers controlled field position in the first quarter by recovering a bad snap on a punt and using a 41-yard interception return to set up two short touchdown drives in building a 21-0 lead en route to a 27-6 halftime lead. A 34-yard punt return and a recovered fumble on a punt set up two more touchdowns in the second half to seal the win.
On the opening series of the game, a facemask penalty gave the Panthers a first down before Detroit Lakes’ defense held and forced a punt.
A bad snap was recovered by Caleb Tangen at the Park Rapids 35. A 7-yard run by Isaiah Thompson and a facemask penalty set up a 10-yard pass from Max Gunderson to Reed Mace. Braeden Wimmer kicked the extra point and the Lakers led 7-0 with 7:07 to play in the first quarter.
Quarterback Jens Anderson rushed for 23 yards as Park Rapids marched to the Lakers’ 40, but Mace intercepted a pass and returned it 41 yards to the Panthers’ 18. On the next play, Thompson scored to give the Lakers a 14-0 lead at the 4:53 mark.
Detroit Lakes’ defense forced another punt and the Lakers took over at the Park Rapids 36. Thompson followed rushes of 16 and 8 yards with a 12-yard TD run as the Lakers extended their lead to 21-0 with 2:08 to play in the first quarter.
The Panthers responded with an 18-play, 80-yard scoring drive that consumed 11:37 off the clock. Anderson’s 3-yard gain on a fake punt on fourth-and-1 at the Park Rapids 29 kept the drive alive. Anderson gained 16 yards before hitting Jeff Haas on passes of 6 and 8 yards. Nathan David’s 8-yard run and a 23-yard catch by Haas set up a 3-yard TD connection from Anderson to Haas on third down. The extra-point kick was blocked, but the Panthers had cut the deficit to 21-6 with 2:31 to play in the first half.
The Lakers ended the half with a quick five-play, 60-yard drive as a 9-yard run by Thompson, a 12-yard gain by Gunderson, a 12-yard run by Thompson and a 12-yard pass from Gunderson to Reed Benson set up a 15-yard TD pass from Gunderson to Jacob Kalina with :28 remaining before the break. The kick was blocked as Detroit Lakes carried a 27-6 lead into the intermission.
On the opening series of the second half, the Lakers extended their lead on Mace’s 63-yard touchdown reception on fourth-and-2. That four-play, 70-yard drive made it 34-6 with 9:47 to go in the third quarter.
Haas’ 12-yard reception gave the Panthers a first down on the ensuing series, but Detroit Lakes forced another punt.
Mace’s 52-yard punt return for a touchdown was called back by a holding penalty as the Lakers took over at the Park Rapids 18. Ty Jones’ 8-yard reception set up a 1-yard TD run by Jake Green on third-and-goal as Detroit Lakes led 41-6 with 3:13 left in the third quarter.
A 10-yard run by Anderson and an 18-yard catch by Haas led the Panthers to the Detroit Lakes 37, but a fumble resulted in a 10-yard loss, forcing another punt.
Two plays later, Harley Wellman recovered a Detroit Lakes fumble and the Panthers regained possession at the 22. The Lakers’ defense held and took over at the 22.
Park Rapids’ defense forced a punt, but a fumble on the kick was recovered by the Lakers at the Panthers’ 42. A 9-yard catch by Noah Johnson and carries of 13 and 12 yards by Christian Solberg led to a 4-yard TD run by Solberg to conclude the scoring with :25 remaining in the game.
Detroit Lakes, which edged Willmar 44-43 in the season opener, was rated No. 9 in last week’s state Class AAAA poll.
The Panthers, who fell to 0-2 on the season, travel to Perham this Friday night (Sept. 13) for a 7 p.m. kickoff in a Section 8AAA and Midwest Red District battle. Perham is 2-0 on the season following wins over Breckenridge (16-13 in Week 1) and Thief River Falls (61-7). Perham was rated No. 10 in the first state Class AAA poll.
In the other Week 2 Section 8AAA games, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton blanked Fergus Falls 40-0, Pequot Lakes outlasted East Grand Forks 47-35 and Breckenridge shut out Roseau 39-0. In Week 1 games, D-G-F defeated Hawley 46-7, East Grand Forks defeated Crookston 27-19, Pequot Lakes edged Pillager 28-20, Roseau defeated Warroad 14-6, Rocori blanked Fergus Falls 23-0 and West Central Area routed Thief River Falls 62-0.