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Semifinal preview: Blue Earth Area vs. Perham

Jordan Hein's nose for the end zone will be tested by the most stout defense in Class 3A Saturday, at 4:30 p.m. in Minneapolis as the Yellowjackets face Blue Earth Area for a trip to the state finals. Robert Williams/FOCUS

On paper, the name of the 3A state semifinal game between No. 5-ranked Perham (10-1) and No. 2-ranked Blue Earth Area (11-0) will come down to defense.

The undefeated Buccaneers have allowed 14 points or more only twice this season.

The Bucs defeated #10-4A St. Paul Highland Park 37-21 and Fairmont 33-24. In a rematch with Fairmont in round one of the playoffs, the Bucs won easily 29-8.

The Bucs entered the state quarterfinal game versus Section 4AAA's St. Croix Lutheran averaging only 9.9 points allowed per game.

Blue Earth Area has the stingiest defense in Class 3A.

After a 21-12 victory, that average bumped to double digits at 10.1 ppg.

Of the two other teams facing off in the other semifinal, No. 1 Rochester Lourdes averages 13.3 points allowed. No. 6 Annandale allows 19.8.

Perham has seen a stifling defense this season. 4A Detroit Lakes came into the Oct. 12 game in Perham with an average points allowed under 10.

While the Lakers won that game 36-28, Perham was able to get four scores against a defense that had allowed only 20 points in its first five games and 22 to Park Rapids Area, a team that proved it could score on anyone - just not enough, as the Panther defense allowed nearly four touchdowns per game.

Perham averages allowing 15.5 ppg with a defense that has come into the post-season on a mission.

The Jackets allowed 26 points to Park Rapids on the frisky and fast turf at Fargodome in the section final. 20 of the Panthers' points came in an erupting third quarter.

When it was time to slam the brakes on the Park Rapids rally the Jacket D did that with a fourth quarter shutout.

The section semifinal was never in jeopardy as Perham jumped all over Crookston 35-14. The game was decided by halftime.

An outmatched Esko team found out the hard way what happens when the Perham's offense gets loose as Jordan Hein and Payton Jordahl ran all over the Eskomos to a 28-0 lead at half and mopped up a trip to Metrodome by way of a 42-8 knockout.

The starting defense did not allow a point in the game.

Perham's lowest point total was 20 points scored in a come-from-behind one-point victory at Thief River Falls in terrible weather conditions of high winds and heavy rain/snow mix.

Typically, the Jacket O is going to hit 30 points minimum.

Blue Earth Area averages scoring 34.5 ppg.

Something is going to have to give at Metrodome because the numbers don't add up.

Both teams can light up the scoreboard and keep numbers in single-digits on their opponents.

Perham has an anomaly on their side: Jordan Hein.

Hein has proven to be a dynamic player for two seasons rewriting the Perham record books and finding ways to win from late-game heroics to leading the cheers from the bench in the fourth quarter of the team's six blowout victories.

The Blue Earth Area defense cannot game plan to stop Hein. The Bucs will merely have to find a way to contain him.

Hein quoted Head Coach Mike Jordahl's thoughts before the Esko victory of, 'If we execute we can run everything in our playbook.' "He was right," said Hein. Perham executed their offense to the nines in blustery rain and wind last weekend in Duluth. It seemed to have little effect on the Jacket scoring machine.

With no weather to deal with inside the Metrodome, the playbooks of both teams will be wide open.

Perham will center their attack with Hein and running back Payton Jordahl. The duo has combined for 28 of Perham's 36 offensive touchdowns.

That leaves a relatively simple defensive plan in place for the Bucs. Stop Jordahl and Hein.

Much of that task will fall on the shoulder pads of the Bucs' senior middle linebacker Carter Hanson, who had 96 tackles coming into the state quarterfinals, according to a report in the Fairmont Sentinel.

Junior linebacker Kysten Zierke had 66 tackles showcasing how the Bucs' stout 4-3 defense funnels ball carriers to their attacking second level.

Should the defensive duo find early success, Perham may be forced to throw.

The Yellowjackets have proven they can go to the air when necessary.

Eric Brauch is averaging a school-record 31.1 yards per catch from team-highs of 24 grabs and five touchdowns.

Josh Nordick has 22 catches with one score in a mostly possession-style role. Nordick's speed allows him to find open field.

Hein's ability to get loose has allowed Brauch to get behind opposing secondaries for big gains.

Hein has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark with 1,109 yards passing averaging 100 ypg to go with his typical 150 on the ground.

The Jackets will see a lot of Zierke, who is also the Bucs' quarterback and leading rusher, all six-feet 205 pounds of him.

The Bucs' will also feature running backs Gus Phillips and David Franta; both have accumulated over 500 yards rushing this season.

Six-foot-four Isaac Darrington leads the Bucs' receiving crew with numbers similar to Brauch's.

A countless number of variables make for many possible equations to find a solution for either team to win and advance to the state finals Nov. 24.

Add to that the desperation of bringing the school's first title back home for both clubs.

The No 2-ranked Buccaneers are making their second consecutive and fourth overall appearance under this name.

Blue Earth made one additional appearance in 1972.

The Buccaneers moved up to 3A this season. Last year, they lost in the 2A state quarterfinals and are looking for their first title.

The Yellowjackets are making their second consecutive and sixth overall appearance and also lost in last year's state quarters.

Fasten your seat belts, get to the Metrodome, as this game has the makings and match-ups for a real nail biter.

Every game at this level is fraught with nerves at the opening kickoff. Perham has managed to get off to quick and potent starts in the playoffs. Blue Earth Area has managed their own game plans to get this far.

Perham has had their share of tight games this season and the Jackets were able to enjoy a festive romp in Duluth cruising to the semifinals.

The Bucs had to knock off reining state 3A champions St. Croix Lutheran in a four-quarter battle.

Either way, confidence is high on both sidelines.

It will be an early test of which team has a bigger punch in the mouth ready for their opponent.

That leads to a battle of who has the intensity in practice this week and can bring it to the expanse of Mall of America Field, harness it, and keep it for four solid quarters.

A blowout is unlikely from either team. The little things will have big effects on the outcome of this game.

Who controls the line of scrimmage? Who wants it more? Old school-football adages are now in full effect and basic fundamentals will be of the utmost importance.

From day one of practice, the Perham Yellowjackets have been on a mission for a state title and have not been shy about the bad taste left in their mouths last year at St. Cloud in the quarterfinals.

Their goal of a second Saturday at Metrodome is days away from being reached with a victory.

"Now we've got to finish what we started," Hein said.

Robert Williams

Sports Editor at the Detroit Lakes Tribune. Williams worked prior as the Sports Editor in Perham for the Focus, a Forum Communications newspaper, from 2010-14. 

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