8AAA football quarterfinals: Jackets overcome shaky start to defeat Cardinals
Three Perham first half turnovers allowed the Staples-Motley Cardinals (0-9) to hang with Perham (6-3) in the first half of the opening game of the Section 8AAA football playoffs.
Perham came out ready to play in the second half and put the game away with three third quarter touchdowns en route to a 34-12 victory.
The Cardinals scored a touchdown with 33 seconds remaining in the first half via a 35-yard touchdown pass from Blake Petrich to Colton Borders. Borders caught the ball at the height of his leap behind and over Gabe Pankonin. The pass was just out of the reach of Pankonin.
Staples-Motley, down 13-12, elected to go for two points to try to take a lead into the break. Brandon Flickinger was stopped short of the goal line sending the Yellowjackets to halftime, surprisingly, only up by one point in a game, which looked like an easy blowout on paper.
"We just had to calm down a little bit, eliminate turnovers and come out pumped up," Perham quarterback Jordan Hein said.
The Cardinals received the second half kickoff and handed the ball to Perham immediately when Jesse Hein forced a Petrich fumble that was recovered by Ty Haverland.
Haverland also blocked a 34-yard field goal attempt on the Cardinals' first drive of the game.
Haverland's fumble recovery deep in Staples-Motley territory, at the 18, set up a three-play scoring drive capped off by a five-yard touchdown run by Jacob Still to up the lead to 20-12.
The next two times the Yellowjackets gained possession they scored touchdowns to make a close game a rout.
The Perham defense forced a three-and-out on the Cardinals' next drive.
Still did most of the ensuing offensive work gaining 51 yards on five rushes to get inside the five-yard line. Jordan Hein scored from one yard out. Jesse Hein's PAT kick was good for a 27-12 lead.
The Cardinals team that controlled the first half in time of possession 17:25 to 6:35, saw the tables turned in the second half where Perham owned the ball 15:28 to 8:32.
"We ran the ball; that was the key," Jordan Hein said.
"We have to look adversity right in the eye and go out and do what we can do," Pankonin said.
Pankonin did exactly that on Perham's third second half drive scoring on a 32-yard run on the second play from scrimmage.
"We made some mistakes in the first half but we looked adversity in the face and played well in the second half," said Pankonin.
Jesse Hein's PAT kick was the final score of the game leading to a quiet fourth quarter scoreboard.
Jacob Still led Perham in rushing with 88 yards on 12 carries. Jordan Hein had 76 yards on 11 rushes. Pankonin gained 33 yards on three carries, while leading the team in receiving gaining 65 yards on two catches.
Jesse Hein led the Perham defense with 10 tackles and three crunching hits on Cardinals runners.
Josh Nordick picked off Petrich on the Cardinals' second drive of the game at the Perham 18 and returned the interception 44 yards to keep Staples-Motley at bay early.
Petrich completed only two passes for 39 yards. Grant Longbella led Staples-Motley's running attack with 84 yards on 15 carries.
The Cardinals out-rushed the Jackets by a single yard, 209-208. Hein's passing numbers of 119 yards on 11 attempts and a pass by Pankonin for 20 yards made up the difference in total yards, 347-248, in favor of Perham.
Perham advances to face Park Rapids Area Saturday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m. in Perham at Meinhover Field.
The Panthers upset East Grand Forks on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line with seven seconds left in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Ian Johnson plunged into the end zone to seal the Panthers' 13-10 victory.
Perham defeated Park Rapids Area 34-14, week two, in Park Rapids.
After a shaky start to the season and Tuesday's quarterfinal game, the Yellowjackets are starting to live up to their pre-season expectations.
"We've yet to even meet our expectations," Head Coach Mike Jordahl said. "We have so much potential on this team. They just continue to get better."
Statistics courtesy of Ron Berns