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Otters edge Panthers in battle of defenses

Despite suffering a fifth loss in a row, Jeremy Nordick believes that no opponent wants to face the Park Rapids football team in the Section 8AAA playoffs.

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Tristin Persons intercepted two passes and rushed for 45 yards in Park Rapids' 13-12 loss at Fergus Falls Friday night. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

Despite suffering a fifth loss in a row, Jeremy Nordick believes that no opponent wants to face the Park Rapids football team in the Section 8AAA playoffs.

Park Rapids' defense played another solid game in a losing effort Friday night as a fourth-quarter touchdown gave Fergus Falls a 13-12 victory. That was the third close loss for the Panthers this season. The other two were against section rivals East Grand Forks (13-12 in Week 3) and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (14-12 in Week 5). Park Rapids also gave section foe Pequot Lakes a battle in a 32-20 loss in Week 6.

The Panthers again played well on the defensive end by allowing only 218 yards and forcing three turnovers. Managing only 147 yards in offense proved costly as the Otters prevailed in this Midwest Blue District game at Fergus Falls.

"I was very pleased with our effort," said Nordick. "We've lost three games by a matter of 4 total points. We've had just one or two bad breaks each of those games that have cost us a win. We have went toe-to-toe with some very good football teams and I feel we've earned back some respect from our district and section opponents."

After seeing Fergus Falls take the opening kickoff and score on a quick six-play drive, the Panthers created a break on defense to tie the game.

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Chase Jensen began the Otters' opening 65-yard drive with a 13-yard run before ending the drive with a 43-yard touchdown pass from Ethan Olson. That gave Fergus Falls a 6-0 lead with 9:29 to play in the first quarter.

Park Rapids was forced to punt after three plays as Fergus Falls took over at its own 15-yard line. Three plays later, Spencer Fritze intercepted an Olson pass and returned it 25 yards for a TD. That tied the game at 6-6 with 6:19 remaining in the first quarter.

The Otters drove into Park Rapids territory on the ensuing series behind a personal-foul penalty on the Panthers and a pair of 11-yard runs by Jarrett Huus. Park Rapids' defense tackled Huus behind the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-1 as the Panthers took over at their own 40.

After both teams exchanged punts, the Panthers used a 10-yard run by Cody Dravis, a 12-yard carry by Tristin Persons and an 11-yard run by Dravis to reach the Fergus Falls 40. A bad snap on third down resulted in a 14-yard loss as the Panthers were forced to punt.

Park Rapids' defense produced another break by recovering a bad snap on a punt at the Fergus Falls 13. A 3-yard carry by Dravis, a 4-yard run by Persons and a 5-yard run by Dravis set up a 1-yard TD plunge by Dravis. With 5:33 remaining in the first half, the Panthers held a 12-6 lead.

Olson led the Otters down the field on the following series by hitting Robert Sewell on a 13-yard pass and a 39-yard route. Persons ended that threat by intercepting an Olson pass at the 11 as Park Rapids carried the lead into the intermission.

Defense dominated the second half.

The Otters threatened on their first offensive series by taking over at their own 48 and using three carries by Jensen for 16 yards and a 5-yard reception by Cody Norgren on fourth-and-2 to reach the Park Rapids 28. Persons stopped that drive with an interception at the 5.

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Fergus Falls recovered a fumble at the Park Rapids 42 and put together a seven-play scoring drive to take the lead. A 30-yard pass to Pearson set up a 5-yard TD pass from Olson to Pearson on fourth down to tie the game. Shane Wahlund kicked the extra point as Fergus Falls held a 13-12 lead with 9:03 to play.

Both teams were forced to punt before a 6-yard run by Fritze on third-and-4, an 8-yard gain by Fritze and a 2-yard run by Dravis on third-and-2, and a facemask penalty led the Panthers to the Fergus Falls 36. That 11-play drive stalled at the 30.

Park Rapids' defense forced the Otters to punt and the Panthers took over at their own 45 with 14 seconds to play. Two incomplete passes were followed by an interception by Pearson as Fergus Falls prevailed.

Fergus Falls, which went 7-0 to win the district title the last three seasons, entered this game on a three-game winning streak after defeating East Grand Forks (20-14), Perham (42-32) and Thief River Falls (30-0). Jensen rushed for 86 yards and Pearson had 89 receiving yards as the Otters improved to 4-2 in the district and 4-3 overall.

Dravis rushed 17 times for 67 yards and Persons added 45 yards on 10 carries as the Panthers had 139 yards on the ground but completed only 3 of 10 passes for 8 yards.

Defensively, Dravis and Brendan Kruchowski had seven solo tackles each while Fritze, Jack Hensel and Kian Scott made five solo tackles apiece. Kruchowski and Hensel had sacks as the Panthers fell to 1-5 in district games.

In Friday night's other district games, Detroit Lakes (7-0 overall) improved to 6-0 with a 42-14 win over East Grand Forks while Perham improved to 4-2 in the district with a 46-13 victory over D-G-F. Pequot Lakes defeated Thief River Falls 28-7 in the other game. East Grand Forks and Pequot Lakes are both 3-3 in the district while D-G-F fell to 3-3. Thief River Falls is 0-6 in the district.

Perham leads the Section 8AAA standings with a 5-2 record while East Grand Forks and Pequot Lakes are 4-3. D-G-F is 3-4 with Park Rapids (2-5) and Thief River Falls (0-7) rounding out the standings.

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Park Rapids closes out the regular season by hosting Perham on Oct. 17 at Vern Weekley Field.

"Physically, I really believe we are the best football team in Section 8AAA. Unfortunately, that hasn't helped us out as much as I had hoped for on the scoreboard," said Nordick. "I feel for our kids because they've been giving absolutely everything they have every game night. I still think our confidence level is high. We look forward to hosting Perham. We believe we can stay with or beat anyone in our section."

Park Rapids 6 6 0 0...12

Fergus Falls 6 0 0 7...13

SCORING

FF--Pearsons 43 pass from Olson (kick failed)

PR--S. Fritze 25 interception return (kick blocked)

PR--Dravis 1 run (run failed)

FF--Pearson 5 pass from Olson (Wahlund kick)

PARK RAPIDS OFFENSIVE STATISTICS

RUSHING: Dravis 17-67, Persons 10-45, S. Fritze 3-13, Anderson 7-8, Z. Fritze 1-5, Hill 1-1.

PASSING: Anderson 2-4-0 for 3 yards; S. Fritze 1-6-1 for 5 yards.

RECEIVING: Engst 1-8, David 1-5, Persons 1-(-5).

KICKOFF RETURNS: S. Fritze 2-27, Z. Fritze 1-15.

PUNT RETURNS: S. Fritze 1-13.

PARK RAPIDS DEFENSIVE STATISTICS

SOLO TACKLES: Dravis 7, Kruchowski 7, Haas 5, S. Fritze 5, Scott 5, Hill 4, Day 3, Persons 3, Stewart 3, Hensel 3, Engst 2, David 2, Z. fritze 2, reish 1.

ASSISTED TACKLES: Day 2, Persons 1, Stewart 1.

TACKLES FOR LOSS: Engst 1, Dravis 1, Stewart 1, Hensel 1, Scott 1.

QUARTERBACK SACKS: Kruchowski 1, Hensel 1.

INTERCEPTIONS: Persons 2, S. Fritze 1.

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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