UPDATED: EGF's defense makes key plays in 13-12 win over Panthers
Entering Friday night's Section 8AAA and Midwest Red District battle against East Grand Forks at Vern Weekley Field, Park Rapids was the only Class AAA football team in the state that hadn't allowed a point after the first two games.
While the Panthers again played well on the defensive end, it was East Grand Forks' defense that also looked like one of the best in the state by delivering the key plays as the Green Wave prevailed with a 13-12 victory in this battle of undefeated and state-ranked teams.
East Grand Forks' defense stopped the Panthers' offense at the 5-yard line twice, at the 11-yard line and at the 28-yard line while stopping a potential game-winning two-point conversion in sparking the win.
The Green Wave took the opening kickoff and marched 64 yards in 12 plays to open the scoring. A 3-yard run by quarterback Carter Beck on fourth-and-2 at the EGF 45, a 15-yard run by Julian Benson and a personal-foul penalty for a helmet-to-helmet hit were the key plays in the opening drive, which was capped off by Beck's 2-yard touchdown run. That gave EGF a 6-0 lead with 6:21 to play in the first quarter.
Park Rapids responded with a nine-play drive as two personal-foul penalties by the Green Wave for hitting a defenseless player and taunting led the Panthers to the EGF 6. After a personal-foul penalty for hands to the face by the Panthers pushed the ball back to the 20, EGF was whistled for a pass interference penalty that set up a fourth-and-9 at the 11. A 6-yard pass from Jens Anderson to Nathan David resulted in loss of downs.
EGF was forced to punt and the Panthers regained possession at the EGF 33. A facemask penalty led to a first down at the EGF 15, but again EGF's defense held as the Panthers lost possession at the 11.
Park Rapids' defense produced a key play by stopping EGF on fourth-and-1 at the EGF 43. That started a quick five-play scoring drive as Anderson scrambled for 12 yards before following with a 23-yard TD run. That tied the game at 6-6 with 3:23 to play in the first half.
A 50-minute weather delay followed. After play resumed, EGF was forced to punt as the game stayed tied 6-6 at the break.
“I thought we were a little flat out of the gates. After they scored, I was really encouraged as to how our guys responded and really played tough, physical football the rest of the game,” said Park Rapids head coach Jeremy Nordick. “As far as the weather delay, I thought it did make a bit of an impact. We had a load of momentum going our way and we had them on their heels a bit. I thought the delay helped benefit EGF’s big boys up front as they were able to get a long rest and come back recharged. Those things happen, though, and we just need to adjust to it.”
Both teams exchanged punts to open the second half before the Panthers threatened on their second series by taking over at the EGF 40. A 15-yard run by Cody Dravis led to a first down at the EGF 10, but a fumbled snap on fourth down stalled that drive at the 5.
After another EGF punt, Park Rapids' offense took over at the EGF 37, but that drive ended at the 28.
The Green Wave followed by putting together an 11-play, 72-yard drive to regain the lead. EGF used nine running plays to drive to the Park Rapids 30 and followed a fumble recovery with a 30-yard TD run by Ethan Trebil. Ben Kern kicked the extra point as EGF led 13-6 with 7:28 to play.
Park Rapids responded with a quick six-play, 70-yard drive as a 7-yard run by Anderson, another personal-foul penalty on EGF and 9-yard catch by David set up a 35-yard TD run by Dravis. EGF stopped Dravis on the two-point conversion as the Green Wave led 13-12 with 4:53 remaining.
EGF was able to run for three first downs, aided by an offsides penalty on the Panthers, to seal the win.
Trebil rushed 19 times for 114 yards and Benson added 58 yards on 13 carries to lead the Green Wave, who opened the season with a 49-28 win over Crookston and a 40-34 victory over Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton. EGF was rated No. 13 in the latest state Class AAA poll.
The Panthers finished with 197 yards in offense with Dravis rushing eight times for 66 yards, Anderson gaining 49 yards on eight carries and Tristin Persons adding 35 yards on six attempts. Defensively, Payton Hill made nine solo tackles, Dravis was in on 11 tackles with seven solo stops, Brendan Kruchowski made 11 tackles with six solo stops, Zach Fritze had nine tackles with seven solo stops and Spencer Fritze had eight solo tackles. Park Rapids, which had outscored its first two opponents 80-0, was rated No. 10 in the state Class AAA poll.
“It was one of the most physical games I’ve been a part of. We knew EGF is a very good football team. They have some very talented backs and their offensive line is very big and athletic. We wanted to continue to bring pressure for 48 minutes and I thought we did a great job of that. EGF has been averaging a ton of yards and points, so for us to hold them to 13 is right where we wanted to be,” said Nordick. “We moved the ball well for the most part, however a few small things just killed us in our drives. Either we had a penalty, missed a block, bobbled the ball or made the wrong call. I’d certainly love to have a few of those plays back. When we are down 1 after a TD at the end of the game, I will go for 2 and the lead or win 100 percent of the time with zero hesitation.”
Park Rapids fell to 1-1 against section teams and 2-1 overall while EGF improved to 2-0 in section play and 3-0 overall. In the other section games Friday night, Perham edged Pequot Lakes 34-32 and D-G-F shut out Thief River Falls 28-0. Perham and Pequot Lakes are both 2-1 while D-G-F improved to 1-2 and Thief River Falls fell to 0-3. Detroit Lakes defeated Fergus Falls 49-7 in the other district game. Detroit Lakes, which is rated No. 4 in the state Class AAAA poll, improved to 3-0 while Fergus Falls fell to 0-3.
The Panthers will face another tough test this Friday night (Sept. 21) by traveling to Detroit Lakes for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
“Detroit Lakes is always talented and are well deserving of their state ranking. We are looking forward to the challenge of playing at a big-time environment with a ton of football tradition,” said Nordick. “Our kids believe they can beat anyone. There are very talented teams all throughout our district and section. We feel we are one of those teams. This will be a great test of resiliency for our guys. We will refuse to back down. We have outstanding leaders and I know they all want to get back at it. We will work hard this week to get ready.”East Grand Forks 6 0 0 7...13Park Rapids 0 6 0 6...12SCORINGEGF--Beck 2 run (run failed)PR--Anderson 22 run (pass failed)EGF--Trebil 30 run (Kern kick)PR--Dravis 35 run (run failed)OFFENSIVE STATISTICSRUSHING. EGF: Trebil 19-114, Benson 13-58, Beck 13-35. Park Rapids: Dravis 8-66, Anderson 8-49, Persons 6-35, Z. Fritze 4-13, Hill 2-5.PASSING. EGF: Beck 3-5-0 for 27 yards. Park Rapids: Anderson 5-9-0 for 29 yards.RECEIVING. EGF: Moen 2-18, Willett 1-9. Park Rapids: N. David 3-18, Engst 1-8, Persons 1-3.KICKOFF RETURNS. Park Rapids: N. David 3-72.PUNT RETURNS. Park Rapids: S. Fritze 2-17.PARK RAPIDS DEFENSIVE STATISTICSSOLO TACKLES: Hill 9, S. Fritze 8, Z. Fritze 7, Dravis 7, Kruchowski 6, Scott 5, N. David 5, Stachowski 3, Engst 3, Hensel 2, Clark 2, Persons 2.ASSISTED TACKLES: Kruchowski 5, Dravis 4, Engst 3, Hensel 2, Z. Fritze 2, Persons 1, N. David 1.TACKLES FOR LOSS: Stachowski 1, Z. Fritze 1.QUARTERBACK SACKS: Hill 1.