Crookston steals momentum and game from Yellowjackets
Desmine Duffy got a chance to use his speed at Crookston connecting on an 82-yard pass from Jordan Hein to get the Yellowjackets on the scoreboard early, but Crookston's Mark Bittner would lead a ground-heavy attack for a comeback 34-14 victory.
According to Statistician, Ron Berns, the Hein to Duffy pass play of 82 yards was the second longest in school history, behind a 90-yard pass from Charlie Nelson to Jon Toedter in the 1989 State Final game vs Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop.
Crookston would surpass the early 6-0 Jacket lead on a 3-yard run by Austin Proulx. Anthony Caputo's extra point put the Pirates up 7-6 going into the half.
Extra tallies have been a thorn in the side of the Yellowjackets all season.
The game remained close before a Josh Edlund 46-yard run and Caputo kick put the Pirates up eight, 14-6, early in the third quarter.
"They hit a couple of big plays," said Defensive Coordinator Kyle Knutson. "Take away two or three big plays and we're right in that game."
Crookston would take command of the game as the third quarter progressed.
The Pirates scored on a 13-play, 73-yard drive, putting points up on a 14-yard run from Quarterback Mark Bittner. Bittner would score again polishing off a 5-play, 60-yard drive to end the third and extend the Pirates lead to 28-6.
"Bittner's tough. We knew he was going to be a factor. We planned against him and were kind of surprised he didn't take control right way, but he's the real deal. He's a real solid player."
Bittner kept it up in the fourth quarter scoring his third touchdown of the game from four yards out at the end of a 16-play, 63 yard drive that ate up nearly six minutes and half of the fourth quarter time remaining.
Forced to pass in a comeback offense, many of the second half Yellowjacket drives were short-lived. Complicating the passing game was the loss of Quarterback Gabe Pankonin, who left the game during the second drive with a broken left collarbone. That left snap duties to Hein.
Hein was six of 23 for 122 yards with the touchdown to Duffy and one interception. He was sacked twice.
"We're sure proud of how they played last night. We're getting better. It was a lot closer than the scoreboard said. We have great leaders on this team. They are getting a little frustrated, but they aren't giving up and are practicing and playing hard."
Mike Wiskow continued to make big plays for Perham. He collected four passes for 33 yards and had a 35-yard touchdown run late in the game to cap Perham's scoring.
"Mike did a nice job. Desmine had a real nice play, also. We're having more and more guys step up."
Edlund and Bittner combined to form a two-headed rushing monster against Perham. Both players rushed for over 100 yards.
The duo led to a distinct edge in total yards gained between the two teams. Forcing Perham to comeback from the pocket with the passing game did not help Perham's rushing yards.
Crookston tallied 439 total yards to Perham's 183.
Perham faces Pequot Lakes Friday at home for the Yellowjacket's homecoming game.
"It's always a good matchup and we're looking forward to playing Pequot Lakes."
Pequot throttled Park Rapids 36-0 and come to Meinhover field undefeated at 4-0.
Other Heart O' Lakes scores:
Pelican Rapids 12
West Central Area 12
Wadena-Deer Creek 0
East Grand Forks 14
Thief River Falls 23
Pequot Lakes 36
Park Rapids 0