Perham’s Colton Hackel, Finn Diggins and Noah Rooney helped the Yellowjackets repeat as Section 8AAA champions last season and returned in a big way this year showcasing their talent before a crowd of 250 fans at Vern Weekley Field in Park Rapids leading Perham to a 40-7 victory over the Panthers on Friday, Oct. 9.
Hackel passed for 277 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 40 yards and another score while Diggins had six receptions for 100 yards and a TD and Rooney caught four passes for 115 yards and two TDs.
"Overall, pretty happy with how things went Friday," Perham head coach Kyle Knutson said. "We need to clean things up on both sides of the ball. Need to be more patient offensively and not try to make things happen."
On the opening series, the Yellowjackets marched 70 yards in nine plays to open the scoring. Hackel hit Diggins on receptions of 24 and 35 yards before capping off the drive with a 2-yard quarterback keeper as Perham led 6-0 with 8:47 to play in the first quarter.
After pinning the Panthers at their own 4-yard line on the ensuing kickoff, Perham made it 8-0 when Park Rapids quarterback Josiah May was sacked in the end zone by Connor Kostynick for a safety.
"Defensively, we played well minus some coverage mistakes," said Knutson. "Going to have to refine some things heading into D-G-F as they always play us tough and are powerful inside. Glad to get the kinks out last week and back to work today (Monday) after film education and practice."
Perham quickly increased the lead with a three-play, 51-yard drive. Josh Peterson opened that drive with a pair of carries for 18 yards before Heckel hit Rooney on a 35-yard scoring strike. Rooney caught the conversion for a 16-0 lead at the 7:35 mark.
The Panthers were forced to punt after three plays and a blocked kick gave the Yellowjackets possession at the Park Rapids 13. Perham couldn’t capitalize on that field position as the Panthers regained possession at the 9.
Perham’s defense forced another punt and the Yellowjackets put together another scoring threat when Hackel hit Peterson on consecutive passes for 28 yards. But again Park Rapids’ defense held and the Panthers took over at the 15.
On the next play, May hit Nick Michaelson on a 64-yard route to give the Panthers their initial first down of the game. However, that drive stalled with four straight incomplete passes as Perham took over.
Three plays later, the Yellowjackets extended their lead. Hackel hit Diggins on routes of 12 and 16 yards before connecting with Rooney on a 51-yard scoring play. Hackel’s conversion run made it 24-0 with 11:00 to play in the first half.
After forcing another punt, Perham marched 63 yards in six plays to pad its advantage. The Yellowjackets overcame an offensive pass interference penalty when Heckel hit Rooney for 16 yards and Chaz Melvin on a 24-yard route. A 13-yard reception by Rooney set up a 6-yard TD pass from Heckel to Diggins. Peterson ran in the conversion to give Perham a 32-0 lead at the 7:41 mark.
The Panthers picked up a pair of first downs on their next series behind an 11-yard run by Sam Reish and two carries for 10 yards by Caleb David. That drive stalled and Perham ended the half with a seven-play, 53-yard scoring drive.
Peterson’s 20-yard run offset a holding penalty and a 10-yard run by Peterson set up a 2-yard TD plunge by Peterson. Hackel ran in the conversion as Perham led 40-0 with :55 left in the first half.
Neither team scored during running time in the third period as Lane Monaghan recovered a fumble to stop Perham’s first drive at the Park Rapids 19 and Park Rapids’ defense held at the 11 after Caleb Lang blocked another punt for the Yellowjackets.
Park Rapids capped off the scoring with an 11-play, 89-yard drive scoring with three minutes left in the fourth quarter
The Jackets surpassed 400 total yards (402) and held Park Rapids to 181.
Perham hosts Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton in the home opener Friday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m.
(Robert Williams of the DL Tribune contributed to this story)
Perham 16 24 0 0...40
Park Rapids 0 0 0 7...7
P-Hackel 2 run (run failed)
P-Safety: Kostynick tackled May in end zone
P-Rooney 35 pass from Heckel (Rooney pass from Heckel)
P-Rooney 51 pass from Heckel (Heckel run)
P-Diggins 6 pass from Heckel (Peterson run)
PR-Reish 15 pass from Morris (De La Cruz Gomez kick)