Allowing a touchdown on the opening kickoff and turning the ball over four times were too much to overcome for the Park Rapids football team.
Pequot Lakes used those big plays to spark a 28-6 victory at Vern Weekley Field on Thursday, Oct. 15.
“I felt that physically we would be able to match up with them, and at times we did, but still gave up a few too many big plays,” said Park Rapids head coach Jeremy Nordick. “The turnovers are hard to overcome, but I thought our defense did a nice job keeping us in the game as long as they could. There weren't many big plays given up, but Pequot has a couple special athletes that did what they had to do to get them in a position to win.”
Ryan Monahan got the Patriots off to a good start by returning the opening kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown. Erik Larsen ran in the conversion as Pequot Lakes led 8-0 just 14 seconds into the game.
The Panthers responded with a quick five-play, 67-yard scoring drive. A 34-yard run by quarterback Josiah May set up a 22-yard scoring strike from May to Nick Michaelson on fourth down. That cut the gap to 8-6 with 9:59 to play in the first quarter.
“I really was pleased at the resiliency of our guys after giving up the opening kickoff return. We came right back and put together a scoring drive,” said Nordick. “I think in the past, some of our guys would've had a hard time recovering from this. Seeing our guys respond shows me that we are improving with our emotional toughness. Mental and emotional strength is something that we talk about every day. Without those two aspects, your physical/weight training means very little.”
Pequot Lakes used a 10-yard run by Carter Sjoblad and a 15-yard reception by Monahan to march to the Park Rapids 26 on the next series, but a holding penalty forced a punt.
Park Rapids was pinned at its own 12 and was forced to punt. The Patriots took over at the 22 and padded their lead when Larsen followed a 17-yard run by Monahan with a 5-yard TD run. That gave Pequot Lakes a 14-6 lead with 6:36 to play in the first quarter.
May rushed for 9 yards and hit James Hartig on a 12-yard pass as the Panthers drove to the Pequot Lakes 39. A penalty for a chop block ended that drive and forced a punt.
A 10-play drive by the Patriots followed, but Park Rapids’ defense held and forced a punt.
Three plays later, Pequot Lakes recovered a fumble at the Panthers’ 12. Sjoblad followed an 8-yard run with a 4-yard TD run and Bode Magnuson hit Larsen for the conversion as the Patriots led 22-6 with 6:49 to play in the first half.
The Panthers responded with a five-play drive as Lane Monaghan’s 12-yard kickoff return and a facemask penalty resulted in a first down at the Pequot Lakes 47. Sjoblad’s interception gave the Patriots possession at the 40.
Pequot Lakes drove to the Park Rapids 30, but lost possession on downs to end the half.
Two interceptions and three stalled drives prevented the Panthers from making a comeback in the second half.
Sjoblad intercepted a pass on the Panthers’ first drive of the second half and a 22-yard run by Magnuson led Pequot Lakes to the Park Rapids 38. That drive ended when Tristan Hill forced a fumble, which Michaelson recovered at the 40.
After forcing a punt, the Patriots concluded the scoring with an eight-play, 61-yard drive. Magnuson rushed for 9 yards on a fake punt on fourth-and-6 and Alex Morgan hauled in a 42-yard catch to set up a 4-yard TD reception by Riggs Magnuson. Pequot Lakes led 28-6 with 3:51 to go in the third quarter.
A 24-yard reception by Michaelson led the Panthers to the Pequot Lakes 29, but an interception by Bode Magnuson ended that threat.
Park Rapids forced the Patriots to punt, but the Panthers lost possession at the Pequot Lakes 48.
Sjoblad rushed three times for 22 yards and an unsportsmanlike penalty gave the Patriots a first down at the Park Rapids 9. Morgan was about to pad the Patriots’ lead on a pass play, but fumbled at the 1 and the ball rolled out of the end zone for a touchback.
The Panthers used three carries for 26 yards by Caleb David and a 16-yard reception by Logan Jackson to reach the Pequot Lakes 35. That drive stalled at the 33 and the Patriots ran out the final 2:49.
“It was very frustrating not being able to finish off drives. However, we did start moving the ball a bit better,” said Nordick. “Field position played a pretty big impact on that, but we still need to do a better job of staying out of second- and third-and-long situations.”
May completed 6 of 14 passes for 65 yards and rushed 12 times for 56 yards to lead Park Rapids’ offense. David added 52 yards on nine carries, Noah Morris completed 3 of 8 passes for 30 yards, and Michaelson had three receptions for 55 yards as the Panthers compiled 211 yards in offense.
Bode Magnuson completed 8 of 15 passes for 102 yards with Morgan having two receptions for 49 yards. Sjoblad rushed 10 times for 59 yards as the Patriots finished with 257 yards in offense in improving to 1-1.
David led the Panthers’ defense with 10 tackles (including eight solo tackles) while Hill had five solo tackles and Sam Reish, Monaghan and Kobe Burton had four solo tackles each.
The Panthers, who fell to 0-2 on the season, travel to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton this Friday night (Oct. 23). The Rebels are 1-1 after a 26-20 loss to Pequot Lakes in the season opener and a 13-8 win over Perham. Kickoff at Glyndon is set for 7 p.m.
“I look for a four-quarter battle if we can get in a good week of practice,” said Nordick. “We are improving every day. I feel very good about the potential of this team. If they stay together and keep battling, they'll be very tough to beat down the stretch of the season.”