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Perham advances to 8AAA final with victory over Park Rapids

Jesse Hein celebrates after stopping Park Rapids' final drive of the game handing the ball to his brother Jordan Hein, who clinched the game on a two-yard run in the waning seconds. Photo by Bob Williams.

For a second straight playoff game, the #1-seeded Perham Yellowjackets (7-3) found themselves in a first-half dogfight. This time, with #5 seed Park Rapids (3-7).

The Panthers took an early 7-0 lead and threatened, like Staples-Motley did last week, to take a lead into halftime.

However, the Perham defense stiffened in the waning seconds of the first half and shut down the Panthers in the second half to advance to the Section 8AAA final with a 28-14 victory.

"We challenged (our players) at halftime," Perham Head Coach Mike Jordahl said. "We just told them, 'you guys are a lot better than this. It's up to you guys.'"

As he has all season, Jordan Hein put the weight of the team on his shoulders to open the second half with the score tied at seven.

He gained 35 yards on three carries moving the Jackets into scoring position. On the fifth play of the drive, he ran around right end attracting the Panther defense before a late pitch found Gabe Pankonin for a 10-yard touchdown run. Jesse Hein's PAT kick gave Perham its first lead of the game 14-7 with 9:51 remaining in the third quarter.

"I like to give that credit to the kids. They just had to step up and play and that's what they did," said Jordahl.

Hein led all rushers with 114 yards on 27 carries. Panther running back Forrest Drury gained 111 yards on 27 carries and was instrumental in the keeping the ball away from the Perham offense in the first half.

Drury scored from 12 yards out on the Panthers' opening drive of the game capping an 11-play, 60-yard drive that took the Perham fans out of the game and put momentum on the side of the visitors.

Perham had only four offensive drives in the first half, three ended in punts and the fourth slipped away on a Jordan Hein fumble that gave Park Rapids the ball on the Perham 26 with only 1:05 remaining in the half.

Drury saw daylight on third down gaining 11 yards and was stopped from scoring by a touchdown-saving tackle by Matt Shipman at the nine with 12 seconds on the clock.

The Park Rapids coaching staff elected to have quarterback Ian Johnson run on the next play during their final timeout of the half. Johnson was nowhere near the end zone and failed to get out of bounds keeping precious points off the scoreboard as time expired.

Perham tied the game in the first half on a 67-yard punt return by Josh Still. Still received the punt and crossed with Pankonin, faking a hand-off, before sprinting, with blockers, to the end zone untouched. Jesse Hein tied the score at seven with the PAT kick.

After Pankonin's score gave Perham a 14-7 advantage, Perham added some cushion to their lead when Jordan Hein hit Tyler Glines in the back of the end zone for a 22-yard scoring reception early in the fourth quarter. Jesse Hein's kick made it 21-7 with 10 minutes remaining in the game.

Drury struck again from six yards out four minutes later to bring the Panthers within one score, 21-14.

The Yellowjackets gained three first downs on what could have been the final drive of the game to run out the remaining six minutes, but Park Rapids stiffened at the Perham 43-yard line forcing a punt.

Jesse Hein booted a 54-yard punt that was downed at the Park Rapids' three-yard line.

The Panthers faced the entire field to tie with time winding down. They did not get far. Tackles by Mike Wiskow on Johnson for no gain--and by Eli Beachy on Levi Erickson for five yards put the Panthers in third and five at their own eight.

Johnson completed only one pass for 14 yards on seven attempts in the game. The option to throw was minimal, at best, for Park Rapids. Johnson took the third down snap but found little time to run or pass as senior nose guard Jesse Hein met him at the 11 and sent him backwards with a big hit.

Jesse Hein and Wiskow combined to stop Drury's fourth down effort turning the ball over on downs.

Jordan Hein capped the scoring with a two-yard plunge to make the final 28-14.

Jesse Hein had another huge game for Perham. He led the team with 13 tackles; was perfect on point-after kicks, made the critical punt to bury Park Rapids deep with 2:32 remaining and led the Perham offensive line in a first half of battle for supremacy in the trenches that finally turned the Yellowjackets' way in the second half.

"As a senior with the experience I've had--I've played with the best. I've played with Marcus Hendrickson and I've played with Nate Schmitz and Andrew Meur and those guys were all idols to me," Jesse Hein said. "I saw how they did it and it was my role this year, to step up and lead everybody. I've just, basically, tried to do what the coaches have asked me to do."

Jesse Hein's impact on the game was enormous. He played every down in a full 48 minutes of team leadership on both sides of the ball and special teams.

Perham advances to face Pequot Lakes at Alerus Center, Thursday, Nov. 3 at 8 p.m.

"I couldn't be happier," Hein said. "That was one game (Pequot Lakes) this season that we were not happy with, and they're a fantastic ball club--we're going to have to play our best game to beat them. We're just going to have to work hard and see what happens."

The Patriots defeated Perham 25-14 in Pequot Lakes on Sept. 30.

"Pequot's going to be tough on the carpet. They're athletic and fast," said Jordahl.

The Perham cross-country teams, who are both heading to state next weekend--the boys trying to defend their championship from last season and the girls looking to improve on last year's 12th place finish--were introduced at halftime.

The football team, with a win in Grand Forks, will be the second team to make the state playoffs this season, continuing on last season's remarkable representation from the school at state tournaments in every athletic season.

"Out town is really good with our youth programs," Left Tackle Mark Schumacher said. "We start it at the ground up and really work on the fundamentals. I think that championship mentality is grinded into those kids when they're younger."

That instilled mentality will be tested indoors at Alerus Center versus Pequot Lakes. The winner of that game will travel to Saint Cloud State University to play outdoors versus the winner of the Section 5AAA final.

In 5AAA, #2 seed Providence Academy (8-2) takes on the #5 seed Rockford (5-5). Rockford defeated the top seed DeLasalle 16-14 to advance. Providence Academy rolled over #3 Breck 55-20.

Gabe Pankonin was taken off the field in the fourth quarter on a stretcher to the ambulance with what appeared, unofficially, as a concussion after a big hit from Panthers' defensive lineman Brent Ritter. His status for the Section final game is uncertain.