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Gabe Pankonin, #3, Jesse Hein, #78, and Mark Schumacher, #77, hold aloft the Section 8AAA Championship trophy during post-game ceremonies. Photo by Bob Williams.

Football Playoffs: Perham advances to state quarterfinals

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GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- After averaging over 30 points per game in a five-game win streak leading to the Section final, the Perham Yellowjackets (8-3) only needed 10 to take the Section 8AAA title from defending champs Pequot Lakes, (7-4), by a final score of 10-3, at Alerus Center, in Grand Forks, Thursday evening.

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"Our kids stepped up and made big plays at the right time," Perham Defensive Coordinator Kyle Knutson said.

"Our defense was amazing," Perham Head Coach Mike Jordahl said. "They had confidence in what they were doing."

The biggest play of the game might have been the fourth offensive play of Pequot Lakes.

Jordan Hein tackled Patriots' quarterback Nolan Michaelson near the Perham sideline. Michaelson was down, out of bounds, and left the game with an ankle injury. He did not return.

Senior Nevin Greer and junior Jordan Redmond handled the snaps, but after the first drive of the game, the Patriots would put no more points on the scoreboard.

Connor Leagjeld nailed a 28-yard field goal, with plenty of foot, giving Pequot Lakes its only lead of the game, 3-0, with 7:27 remaining in the first quarter.

"Holding them to three points on that first drive was huge for us," Perham nose guard Jesse Hein said.

The Yellowjackets pounded the ball and ate up the remaining time of the first quarter to tie the game with under a minute remaining when Jesse Hein kicked a 29-yard field goal that just skimmed over the cross-bar to knot the score at three.

Perham forced a three and out punt situation and Greer bobbled the punt snap. Greer scrambled and completed a pass, but it was short of the first down giving Perham excellent field position at the Patriots' 40.

Two penalties and a fumble gave the ball right back to the Patriots and a defensive battle complimented by penalty flags ensued.

The Patriots were called for five offside penalties while on defense in the first half. An eager Pequot Lakes defense routinely dug themselves in a hole and offered up free yardage to the Perham offense.

"We knew we had to use some hard counts because we knew that they would be blitzing," Jordahl said.

Nearing the red zone as halftime approached, Mike Wiskow scampered 22 yards to the Pequot Lakes' three-yard line, setting up first and goal.

Jordan Hein plunged in from the one at the 4:04 mark of the first half putting Perham up 9-3. Jesse Hein was good for the point after for the only other points of the game, 10-3.

Jordan Hein and Gabe Pankonin intercepted Redmond twice in the waning minutes of the first half to halt Patriot drives.

Three heaves to the end zone by Jordan Hein fell incomplete with under a minute to go to keep the score tight heading into the break.

The Yellowjackets were in Patriot territory for most of the third quarter but a turnover on downs, a third down sack and a dropped pass kept Perham out of the end zone.

Meanwhile, Pequot Lakes mustered little in the way of threats coming out of the halftime break.

"In our last few games, we've struggled in the first half giving up points," Jesse Hein said. "Today, we came in knowing what we needed to do and we just came out focused and made some key stops in the red zone."

Pequot Lakes moved the ball in the fourth quarter, mainly through the air. Redmond hit Travis Noska to get to the Perham 30. A pass to Riley Johnson moved the Patriots into the red zone and two plays later set up fourth and inches on the Perham eight-yard line with under six minutes to play.

The Patriots converted for a first down but three plays later faced fourth and goal. A wobbly, desperation pass by Redmond, on fourth down, bounced off players from both teams before landing in the hands of Perham's Brady Sazama for a touchback.

Perham had nothing left to do but run the clock out with a few first downs. The Patriots forced a Jordan Hein fumble that bounced to Pankonin to spare the defensive unit from having to make another huge stop.

Jordan Hein took the load of the final ball carries and ran the clock down to victory formation to enjoy the final seconds of the game.

"We just kept the hammer down and kept working hard and we got there and now we're going," Jesse Hein said.

Where they are going is to Husky Stadium on the campus of St. Cloud State University for a Saturday, Nov. 12, 5 p.m. showdown with the winner of Section 5AAA, either Rockford or Providence Academy.

According to the Perham coaching staff, the Yellowjackets are hitting their stride at the right time and a six-game win streak is just one of the signs this team has a chance to go deep in the playoffs, now just one game away from the state semifinals in the Metrodome.

"These guys are so much fun," Jordahl said. "There's a lot of talent. We're not even close yet. I know we can do some things that are going to surprise some people."

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Robert Williams
Robert has been the Sports Editor for the Focus since 2010 covering multiple state and national championship teams and is a mainstay at state tournaments each season covering the successful, athletic programs of Perham and New York Mills High Schools.
(218) 346-5900 x223
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