Football: Yellowjackets look to advance past state quarters
FARGO -- Jordan Hein's second touchdown of the Section 8AAA championship, a 22-yard interception return, looked to be an early nail in the coffin of the Park Rapids Area Panthers Friday at Fargodome, as Perham took an early 19-0 lead.
Hein's counterpart, Tyler McCollum, had other ideas.
Perham took a 25-6 lead into halftime and the game appeared comfortably in Yellowjacket hands until McCollum came out of the locker room with a fired up Panthers team.
Park Rapids scored on three consecutive third quarter drives cutting Perham's lead to 25-20 on a 59-yard bomb from McCollum to Zach Eystad.
Eystad busted a 67-yard touchdown run on the first play after Andy Waller recovered a Payton Jordahl fumble in Panther territory.
Hein scored the eventual game-winner with 3:11 remaining in the third to stem the Panther momentum surge, but McCollum hit Ian Johnson from 36-yards out to make the score 31-26 heading to what appeared to be a tense fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter, however, in Yellowjacket words, "belongs to us."
Perham proved that by outscoring Park Rapids 20-0 in the final frame to take an intense shootout and turn it into a blowout, 51-26, by game's end.
Hein scored three rushing touchdowns, threw two touchdown passes and scored on defense in a game where he was the difference.
There was just no way Park Rapids could control the Perham senior and as the game went on the Yellowjackets continued to get stronger.
The Panthers' fourth drive of the game had two key plays negated by penalties.
The referees had hanky fever early in the game like distressed damsels trying to gain the attention of both teams and bring some kind of order to a rowdy and lightning-quick start on Gate City Bank Field's turf.
Up 13-0, Perham's Cole Schmitz intercepted McCollum at the Park Rapids' 24 and set up Perham in the red zone.
A personal foul flag negated Schmitz' game changer. The call was for a blow to the helmet.
Five plays later, McCollum connected with Eystad for a 60-yard touchdown, but the play was called back on a holding call.
The Park Rapids drive never crossed midfield, ended in a punt with two fumbles, an interception and four penalties ending a wild first quarter.
Had the holding call gone unnoticed, a 13-7 start to the game could have gone either team's way.
"We just came and got after it," Hein said.
For three quarters, Park Rapids found a way to hang around with Perham and there were moments in the third quarter when all was quiet on the Perham side of the Fargodome while the Panthers' sideline and crowd blew up as the smell of an upset brewed.
However, as helmets and hands depicting a four went up in the air on the Perham sideline, Hein pushed Perham to the end zone scoring from the one and passing 32 yards for a score to Tyler Glines.
Josh Still cemented the win with a nice 50-yard sprint down the right sideline with 2:14 to go to push the Perham point total to the half-century mark.
Both Hein and the team broke school records en route to Perham's highest offensive output of the season.
The Perham defense shut McCollum down ending the two Park Rapids fourth quarter drives by way of interceptions from Payton Jordahl. Jordahl had a big game on both sides of the ball.
"Their quarterback is a decent thrower," Jordahl said. "We came together and found our ways. We always find our ways."
Perham returns to the state quarterfinals looking to avenge last year's defeat to Providence Academy in St. Cloud.
They will face the Esko Eskomos, the No. 2 seeded section 7AAA champions. Esko defeated top-seeded and No. 8-state ranked Proctor 28-26 to advance.
"They're a pretty good all-around team," Hein said. "Their quarterback can throw and they have a good running game and receivers and we're pretty excited to play them."
Where last year's trip to state had the novelty of the team perhaps being happy with the appearance. This year, a win in the first round of the state tournament has the full attention of the team and Perham wants to make its first trip back to the Metrodome since November 2007.
"It's a special opportunity for us," Head Coach Mike Jordahl said. "But at the same time, we know what it takes. The kids have been working hard during the offseason and during the season."
Three games remain to make all that hard work pay off and bring Perham's second state championship this fall season back to Otter Tail County.
Perham and Esko square off outdoors in Duluth at Public School Stadium Saturday, Nov. 10 at 3:00 p.m.
Perham enters the game with a record of 9-1 and the No. 5 state ranking in Class 3A. Esko is unranked with a record of 8-2.