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Panthers fell short of reaching goals

Aaron Morris says football is a game of inches. Falling short by inches prevented the Park Rapids football team from producing a winning record. The Panthers opened the season with a 1-6 record before defeating Roseau in the regular-season finale...

Jordan Yliniemi
Jordan Yliniemi received the Gary Rehn Award as the Panthers’ Most Valuable Player.

     Aaron Morris says football is a game of inches.

     Falling short by inches prevented the Park Rapids football team from producing a winning record.

     The Panthers opened the season with a 1-6 record before defeating Roseau in the regular-season finale and Perham in the first round of the Section 8AAA playoffs. A loss to Pequot Lakes in the section semifinals gave Park Rapids a 3-7 overall record.

     “Our record doesn’t indicate the season we had. We were a few plays here and there from being 6-2 or 5-3 and getting a home playoff game instead of being 2-6,” said Morris. “The kids played hard all season. They never gave up and worked hard. We just didn’t get many breaks. Football is a game of inches and we fell short a few times.”

     The Panthers opened the season with a 6-0 loss to United North Central. Park Rapids turned the ball over four times and managed only 128 yards in offense in that game while allowing 200 yards.

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     In Week 2, the Panthers were held to only 148 yards in offense in a 32-6 loss to Thief River Falls. Park Rapids, which allowed 281 yards, trailed 12-6 at the half.

     Park Rapids’ offense racked up 25 first downs and 327 yards in a 29-13 win over East Grand Forks in Week 3. The Panthers, who held EGF to only 209 yards, rallied from a 13-8 halftime deficit.

     Four turnovers proved costly in a 21-6 loss to Detroit Lakes in Week 4. The Panthers, who trailed 14-0 at the half, gave up 382 yards while compiling 211 yards on offense.

     Perham’s defense held the Panthers to only 28 yards in the second half in a 16-15 win in Week 5. Park Rapids, which led 15-8 at the half, finished with 181 yards in offense while allowing 226.

     Despite compiling 394 yards in offense, the Panthers were defeated by Pequot Lakes 43-28 in Week 6. Pequot Lakes led 21-15 at the half and finished with 308 yards.

     Fergus Falls built a 21-0 halftime lead in a 34-6 win over the Panthers in Week 7. The Otters finished with 293 yards in offense while Park Rapids had 240 offensive yards.

     A season-high 482 yards in offense sparked the Panthers to a 38-14 win over Roseau in the regular-season finale. The Panthers, who led 14-6 at the half, rushed for 413 yards while holding Roseau to 271 yards.

     For the section playoffs, the Panthers received the No. 6 seed and upset No. 3 Perham with a 34-26 victory. The Panthers, who trailed 20-14 at the half, compiled 223 yards while allowing 277 yards.

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     Pequot Lakes, the No. 2 seed, ended the Panthers’ season with a 30-15 win in the section semifinals. The Patriots finished with 250 yards in offense while holding Park Rapids to 187 yards. Pequot Lakes lost to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 36-13 in the section title game.

     In the new Midwest Red District, the Panthers finished seventh out of eight teams with a 2-6 record. Detroit Lakes and Fergus Falls both went 7-1 while Pequot Lakes was 6-2. Perham finished at 4-4 while East Grand Forks and Thief River Falls finished at 3-5. Roseau ended at 0-8.

     Five of Park Rapids’ opponents were ranked in the state polls sometime during the season. UNC was rated as high as No. 7 in the state Class AA poll while Fergus Falls (No. 7) and Detroit Lakes (No. 11) were rated in the final state Class AAAA poll. Pequot Lakes was rated No. 11 in the final state Class AAA poll while East Grand Forks was rated No. 9 in the first state Class AAA poll. D-G-F was rated No. 2 in the last state Class AAA poll.

     For the season, the Panthers averaged 253.6 yards a game, including 214 on the ground, in averaging 17.7 points a game. Park Rapids allowed 279.7 yards and 23.5 points a game.

     Leading the Panthers this season were seniors Damion Hanke, Jordan Yliniemi, Micah Barrett, Matt Bade, Connor Byer, Tristan Breitweser, Remington Hagan, Isaac Kosel, Noah Schulz and Jacob Engst; juniors Jarett Johnson, Kenny David, Ben Garcelon, Jake Dickinson, Logan Johnson, Teodor Wik, Justin Dravis, Hunter Jewison, Randall Scott, Keith McDaniel, Jacob Bittmann, Riley Cannon, Cole Hoscheid, Logan Veo, Tanner Becker and Kyle Trumble; sophomores Zach Severtson, Jason Haas, Matthew Benson, Zach Hocking and Bradley Graham; and freshman Tristan Persons.

     Yliniemi received the team’s Gary Rehn Award as the Panthers’ Most Valuable Player and earned all-district honors. Barrett received the Mike McClelland Award as the Panthers’ Defensive MVP. Bade, Hanke and Dravis earned all-district honorable mention honors. Hanke also received the team’s Kip Gauldin Leadership Award, Byer received the Coaches Award and Hocking was named the Most Improved Player. Byer, Kosel and Schulz were all-district academic players for having at least a 3.70 GPA.

     Leading the Panthers’ rushing attack was Yliniemi, who rushed 166 times for 985 yards and 13 touchdowns while scoring 90 points. Yliniemi broke the school record for rushing yards in a game with 278 against Roseau. Garcelon rushed 138 times for 479 yards and two TDs and scored 14 points, Bade gained 307 yards on 75 carries with three TDs and scored 24 points, Hagan had 28 carries for 179 yards and a TD, Breitweser had 71 yards on 10 carries, Benson rushed eight times for 35 yards and a TD and Severtson gained 49 yards on six carries.

     Dickinson completed 29 of 105 passes for 396 yards and four TDs with Hanke (eight catches for 103 yards and a TD), Byer (seven catches for 105 yards and two TDs), Hagan (five receptions for 55 yards), Bade (four catches for 76 yards and a TD), Garcelon (three receptions for 34 yards) and Yliniemi (two catches for 23 yards) being the primary receivers.

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     Schulz, Hocking, Bittmann, Becker and Hoscheid led the offensive line with Veo, Trumble and Graham filling in.

     Breitweser returned 10 kickoffs for 107 yards, Garcelon had nine returns for 108 yards, Yliniemi returned eight kicks for 127 yards, Hagan had six returns for 95 yards and Persons returned four kicks for 100 yards. Kosel returned 12 punts for 108 yards and Hagan had 10 punt returns for 145 yards.

     Defensively, Hanke (21 solo tackles, 61 assists, two forced fumbles, one quarterback sack for 109 points), Dravis (17 solo tackles, 56 assists, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, two sacks for 106 points), Barrett (20 solo tackles, 41 assists, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 3.5 sacks for 96 points), Hagan (15 solo tackles, 41 assists, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, four knocked down passes, one interception, one sack for 88 points) and Engst (11 solo tackles, 51 assists, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, one interception for 84 points) were the top point producers.

     Also playing key roles on defense were Jarrett Johnson (15 solo tackles, 32 assists, one forced fumble, three knocked down passes, one interception for 73 points), Bade (12 solo tackles, 44 assists, one fumble recovery, one sack for 72 points), Kosel (14 solo tackles, 29 assists, two knocked down passes, three interceptions for 70 points), Jewison (18 solo tackles, 26 assists, two knocked down passes for 66 points), Trumble (nine solo tackles, 28 assists, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, .5 sacks for 51 points), Severtson (nine solo tackles, 26 assists, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, one sack for 59 points), David (seven solo tackles, 26 assists, one forced fumble, one recovered fumble, one knocked down pass for 46 points) and McDaniel (four solo tackles, 16 assists, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries for 32 points).

     Others who scored points on defense were Garcelon (22 points), Logan Johnson (21 points), Schulz (17 points), Yliniemi (15 points), Byer (14 points), Becker (9 points), Breitweser (6 points), Haas (3 points), Scott (3 points), Veo (2 points), Benson (2 points), Graham (1 point) and Cannon (1 point).

     Hagan averaged 27.6 yards on 30 punts while Jarrett Johnson (24 kickoffs for 1,044 yards for a 43.5 average) and Wik (11 kickoffs for 365 yards for a 33.2 average) handled kickoff duties.

     Even though the Panthers graduate 10 key players, the return of 27 players has Morris expecting a more successful season next fall.

     “Our seniors were great leaders. They worked hard, led by example and wanted to do well,” said Morris. “We have some positions to fill, but we have a promising future. We need to fill our running back and tight end spots, but other than that we have a lot of depth coming back, especially on the line. I think these kids will be ready to step up next year. My expectations will be high. We have enough talent and depth that we should be playing in the section title game with a chance to go to state. That’s a very attainable goal if the kids hit the weights and put in the work over the summer.”

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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