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Defense forces 5 turnovers in Perham's 28-6 win over Park Rapids in football opener

The Yellowjackets turned two early turnovers into touchdowns in building a 28-0 lead.

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Perham's Brian Ramos (52) put the pressure on Park Rapids quarterback Noah Morris during the season opener on Friday, Sept. 3. Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

With the offense being held in check, defense and special teams were the key to giving Aron Velde a win in his debut as head coach of the Perham football team.

The Yellowjackets managed only 176 yards in total offense, but the defense forced five turnovers in sparking a 28-6 win over Park Rapids in the season opener at Ted Meinhover Field on Friday, Sept. 3.

“It feels great! A lot of players and coaches put in a ton of work and time to get this done and it's always gratifying to see hard work pay off,” said Velde. “They (Park Rapids) are a big, tough and physical football team. You can tell that they returned a lot of experience this year. The pressure they kept sending defensively gave us some trouble and that was something we had to adjust to. I think our defense did a heck of a job. Any time you force five turnovers in a game, that takes a ton of pressure off your offense. So that was great. Special teams and defense won this one for us, without a doubt.”

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Perham's Chas Melvin intercepted a pass intended for Park Rapids' Logan Jackson during the season opener on Friday, Sept. 3. Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

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Two of those turnovers set the tone early in this battle of Section 8AAA and District Midwest Red rivals.

After both teams exchanged punts to open the game, Braylon Rach’s 16-yard interception return and Colton Hackel’s kick gave Perham a 7-0 lead with 9:27 to play in the first quarter.

On the Panthers’ second play on the ensuing series, Jaxon Vetsch recovered a fumbled snap at the Park Rapids 37. On the next play, Hackel broke free for a 37-yard TD run and converted the kick to give the Yellowjackets a 14-0 advantage at the 7:49 mark.

Perham pinned the Panthers at their own 7 to start the next series and a sack by Carter Seedorf pushed the ball back to the 1. Noah Morris hit Nick Michaelson for a 21-yard gain and Logan Jackson on a 16-yard route before a facemask penalty marched Park Rapids to the Perham 48. That drive stalled when Chas Melvin intercepted a Michaelson pass at the 17.

An interception and 8-yard return by Kaleb Stearns gave the Panthers possession at the Perham 24. Morris rushed twice for 9 yards as Park Rapids reached the 7, but three incomplete passes ended that drive.

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Levi Richter (2) looked for some running room on a punt return during Perham's season opener against Park Rapids on Friday, Sept. 3. Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

Both teams exchanged punts before the Yellowjackets put together a seven-play, 47-yard drive to pad their lead. Levi Richter’s 22-yard punt return was followed by a 27-yard pass from Hackel to Josh Peterson and an 8-yard run by Rach. Hackel capped off the drive with a 3-yard TD run on third down. Hackel ran in the two-point conversion as Perham led 22-0 with 4:27 to play in the first half.

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Sam Reish’s 33-yard kickoff return started a 10-play drive for the Panthers, which featured a 4-yard reception by Jackson on third-and-3 and a 13-yard run by Morris. After a 10-yard pass to Josiah May was negated by a holding penalty, Michaelson hauled in a 20-yard pass at the Perham 32. That drive stalled as Perham carried a 22-0 lead into the half.

The Yellowjackets extended their lead on the first series of the second half when Hackel hit Peterson on a 60-yard scoring route on the second play from scrimmage. That gave Perham a 28-0 lead with 11:23 to play in the third quarter.

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Perham's Josh Peterson (12) tackled Park Rapids' Nick Michaelson during the season opener on Friday, Sept. 3. Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

Park Rapids responded with a 13-play drive as Morris hit Jackson on an 11-yard pass and found Michaelson on a 21-yard route and an 8-yard connection. Morris rushed three times for 16 yards, but Perham’s defense held and took over at the 18.

Perham was forced to punt and Stearns’ 12-yard return gave the Panthers possession at the Perham 42. May’s 5-yard run, Michaelson’s 7-yard reception and a roughing-the-passer penalty moved the ball to the 13. After Karter Kosowski sacked Morris for a 5-yard loss, Morris hit Jackson over the middle for a 17-yard TD strike on fourth down. That closed the gap to 28-6 with :45 remaining in the third quarter.

Hudson Hackel rushed for 12 yards as the Yellowjackets reached midfield on the ensuing series, but that drive stalled and resulted in a punt. Jackson had a 21-yard reception on Park Rapids’ next series, but the Panthers were also forced to punt.

After forcing another Perham punt, the Panthers took over at their own 28. Morris found Jackson on a 12-yard route and hit Michaelson for an 11-yard gain, but Richter forced a fumble that Kosowski recovered at the 44 with 4:48 to play.

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Perham was forced to punt, but an interception by Aiden Kennedy at the Yellowjackets’ 28 with 1:51 to go sealed the win.

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Quarterback Colton Hackel (3) broke free for a 37-yard touchdown run in the first quarter of Perham's 28-6 win over Park Rapids on Friday, Sept. 3. Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

Park Rapids was held to only 31 yards rushing, but Morris threw for 169 yards by completing 14 of 31 passes. Michaelson hauled in seven passes for 92 yards and Jackson had six receptions for 72 yards. The Panthers had 14 first downs, but turned the ball over five times. Park Rapids held the ball for 27:16.

Colton Hackel rushed six times for 52 yards and completed 4 of 10 passes for 89 yards. Peterson caught three of those passes for 88 yards. The Yellowjackets managed only six first downs. Brain Ramos was in on 10 tackles while Melvin, Kosowski, Richter and Rian Solberg made six tackles apiece to lead the defense.

“We wanted to control the field position battle on special teams and then play strong disciplined defense to back that up. Offensively we were hoping to establish a consistent running game and we wanted to control the time of possession,” said Velde. ”As far as offense goes, we did some really good things and got to work on a lot of stuff we will need to continue to grow as the season continues. The pressure from PR made us earn every yard we got on the ground, and they forced several 3 and outs, so we didn't quite reach those offensive goals. But that is OK and gives us something to work on this week. Statistically it may not have been the flashiest night, but we had some nice splash plays that put enough points on the board to get the win.”

In the other Section 8AAA and District Midwest Red games, Fergus Falls defeated Detroit Lakes 29-15, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton shut out Thief River Falls 16-0, East Grand Forks defeated Pequot Lakes 27-12 and Roseau was shut out by Warroad 22-0.

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Rian Solberg (76) tackled Park Rapids quarterback Noah Morris during Perham's 28-6 victory on Friday, Sept. 3. Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

The Yellowjackets will attempt to build on this win when they travel to Thief River Falls for a 6 p.m. kickoff on Friday, Sept. 10.

“I think (Thief River Falls) will be a tough and physical team as well,” said Velde. “There isn't a single opponent on our schedule we will take lightly. We are going to get a good week of practice in, stay disciplined and hopefully we can keep this momentum going.”

Park Rapids 0 0 6 0...6
Perham 14 8 6 0...28
SCORING
P-Rach 16 interception return (C. Hackel kick)
P-C. Hackel 37 run (C. Hackel kick)
P-C. Hackel 3 run (C. Hackel run)
P-Peterson 60 pass from C. Hackel (kick failed)
PR-Jackson 17 pass from Morris (kick failed)
OFFENSIVE STATISTICS
RUSHING. Park Rapids: May 7-11, Morris 21-11, Reish 3-7, Johanning 1-4, Stearns 1-3. Perham: C. Hackel 6-52, Coudron 2-15, Rach 8-13, Richter 2-9, H. Hackel 4-5, Melvin 2-2, Schmidt 1-0, Kennedy 2-(-1), Thompson 3-(-8).
PASSING. Park Rapids: Morris 14-31-1 for 169 yards; Michaelson 0-1-1 for 0 yards; Johanning 0-1-1 for 0 yards. Perham: C. Hackel 4-10-1 for 89 yards.
RECEIVING. Park Rapids: Michaelson 7-92, Jackson 6-72, Stearns 1-5. Perham: Peterson 3-88, Melvin 1-1.
KICKOFF RETURNS. Park Rapids: Reish 2-49, Walen 2-18, Sterans 1-11. Perham; Thompson 2-25.
PUNT RETURNS. Park Rapids: Stearns 2-14, Walen 1-15, Morris 1-1. Perham: Richter 2-34.

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Chas Melvin fought for some extra yardage during Perham's 28-6 win over Park Rapids on Friday, Sept. 3. Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise

Related Topics: FOOTBALLYELLOWJACKET SPORTS
1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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