Perham returns to Class AAA Tournament for second straight year
It was a wave of emotions for the Perham football team when Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton grabbed a 20-14 lead late in the fourth quarter of the Section 8AAA Championships at the Fargodome.
However, the Yellowjackets kept their calm and moved the ball downfield, setting up for Colton Hackel and Noah Rooney’s heroics and defense of their Section 8AAA Championship game. Hackel rolled out and dropped a dime into the end zone, which Rooney came up with for the game-tying score. Hackel added the extra point, helping Perham earn the 21-20 victory over the Rebels.
Perham head coach Kyle Knutson said it felt great and it feels even better when he hears people mention the Yellowjackets repeating as Section 8AAA Champions. He said it was a rollercoaster during the championships.
“Things were so up and down during that game, especially the final two-to-three minutes,” Knutson said of the finals.
Colton Hackel passed for 202 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for 33 yards and a score as well. Noah Rooney finished with six receptions for 99 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner. Finn Diggins and Josh Peterson had three receptions each.
On the final drive, the Yellowjackets went 71 yards in seven plays. Hackel completed five passes on the drive.
“We knew we had to move the ball in the hurry and keep getting out of bounds to stop the clock, since we were out of time outs,” Knutson said of the team’s mindset on the final drive.
The Yellowjackets hope to bottle some of that magic for their Class AAA Quarterfinal when they take on the Pierz Pioneers. Many pundits consider the Pioneers to be the heavy favorite to win the Class AAA Championship. The Pioneers are ranked No. 1 in the latest Minnesota-Scores QRF and dismantled Albany 42-22 in the Section 6AAA Championship. The Pioneers scored 26 points in the second quarter to build a big lead as they earned the win.
Matthias Algarin finished with 128 yards and two touchdowns on the ground with 60 yards receiving. Blake Kowalczyk finished with 120 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
Knutson said the Pioneers are a run heavy squad and they will have to be prepared to contain their ground game. Algarin committed to run track and field and play football at the University of Nebraska earlier in the week.
The Pioneers average 44.8 points per game, while giving up just 7.6 points per game during the 2019 season. The Pioneer defense has five shutouts on the season, and they have been in only one game where the final score was within single digits.
Knutson said the Yellowjackets will have to be able to move the ball and need to be assignment perfect on offense against the Pierz defense.
The Yellowjackets have given up 21.3 points per game, while scoring 35.8 points per game during the season. Their defense has come on strong with a 14-3 victory over Pequot Lakes and a 21-20 victory over the Rebels in the finals. The Yellowjackets will need that type of performance and more in the contest with Pierz.
Brian Ramos leads the team with 69 total tackles, while Isaac Lung has 59 and Finn Diggins has 56. Colton Hackel has 53 and Dawson Kellogg has 50. Diggins has 10 sacks on the season and an interception. Rooney and Hackel lead the team with three interceptions each.
Hackel is a multi-dimensional quarterback and leads the team in rushing and passing. He rushed for 1,079 yards and has thrown for 1,477 yards. He threw 18 touchdowns with just four interceptions. He has rushed for 12 touchdowns as well. Dawson Kellogg has rushed for 617 yards and nine touchdowns during the season.
Hackel has found a solid connection with his receivers during the season. Rooney has 45 receptions for 656 yards, while Diggins has 36 receptions for 556 yards. Maddux Kovash has 13 receptions for 286 yards, and Dylan Lysne has 11 receptions for 253 yards.
“They are very athletic,” Pierz head coach Danny Saehr said in an interview with the Brainerd Dispatch. “They’ll spread the ball to run as well as to pass. Their quarterback is a stud. He’s only a sophomore, but he runs the ball. He passes the ball. He can scramble. He’s a load. He’s a big part of that offense, but they are very well coached. You can tell by their scheme. They do some things that are college level. It’s definitely made it a fun week to prepare for them.”
Knutson said the Yellowjackets get better every day.
“Each week they learn more about the game of football and are working very hard,” Knutson said of the team’s progress from the opening week to the Class AAA Tournament. He said he is proud and blessed to be apart of it.
The Yellowjackets and the Pioneers kick off on Nov. 9 at noon at Alexandria High School in the Class AAA Tournament.