Perham shuts out Park Rapids in 8AAA first-round defensive slugfest
Perham football takes care of business in the opening round of the Section 8AA tournament against Park Rapids.
It took a little bit longer to get the offense going than the Perham football team hoped, but any points were enough to send Park Rapids packing in the opening round of the Section 8AAA tournament.
On Tuesday night, the Yellowjackets (6-3) shut out the Panthers (1-8) 28-0 in the section quarterfinals at Ted Meinhover field. The Perham defense collected four turnovers and didn't allow a single Park Rapids scoring drive in their final home game of the season.
"I love goose eggs," Perham senior defensive lineman Grody Enyart-Martinez said. "These are my favorite kinds of games, and I couldn't ask for a better team to do it with. Everyone had a part in it, and we got the job done. It feels good to know that we beat them physically."
The turning point came late in the third quarter after Perham had taken a 13-0 lead on a Hudson Hackel one-yard touchdown run. On the ensuing kickoff, the Panthers' return man fumbled the ball, which ended up in the hands of Enyart-Martinez.
"At halftime, the coaches told us to keep pounding," sophomore Braylon Rach said. "Good things will come from that. Even when it was 7-0 at (halftime), we were never worried. We knew they were going to come out firing tonight. That fumble they gave up on their kick return really gave us a spark. After that, we just wanted to get the ball to our offense and let them go to work."
The Yellowjackets would capitalize on the short-field position with a seven-yard touchdown run from senior Colton Hackel. It was his second time in the end zone on the night. With 4:12 left in the first half, Colton Hackel broke the scoreless tie with a six-yard scamper.
All of Perham's touchdowns came in the run game. The offensive line was able to get a push on a talented Park Rapids front.
"Those are some big boys, and they move people," Rach said of his offensive line. "Without the o-line, there is no team. Perham football doesn't go without those guys. They worked their butts off tonight."
After the yellowjackets forced a punt, Rach got in on the action with a 13-yard touchdown run. He broke several tackles on his way to the end zone to put the finishing touches on a first-round win.
"That one definitely felt good," Rach said. "There have been some times this year where I was tackled right there. You want to get in so bad when you get that close. This time, it felt good to actually break in. Nothing was stopping me on that run."
Perham beat Park Rapids for the second time this season despite a slow start offensively. Enyart-Martinez believed he saw a better Panthers team than the one he played against on Sept. 3 in a 28-6 victory to open the season.
"I would say (Park Rapids) has a better passing game than when we first played them," Enyart-Martinez said. "When we first played them, their offense really wasn't there, especially their pass game. I don't think it was bad, but it wasn't there yet. They came out here and wanted to show us what they were made of, and they got a couple of those passes on us this time."
Despite the first-team offense finding a rhythm in the second half, the first half was a different story. The Yellowjackets committed two of its four turnovers, turned the ball over on downs once and punted three times. Perham also fumbled twice in the second half, with one of them coming after the starting offense was pulled late in the game.
Playoff football is do or die, and the Yellowjackets understand that the end of the road could be near if they continue to sleepwalk instead of focusing on the task at hand.
"It's always a little nerve-wracking coming into games like this," Enyart-Martinez said. "We're at the point where we have to fight for everything we get. If you don't, there isn't another next time. We bought ourselves another chance to play."
"If we bring our focus, then we can also have fun," Enyart-Martinez said. "Having fun is what really brings this team together and makes us work as one. We have good communication and good fun, which is a good time. At the end of the day, this is football. And we have fun playing football."
PARK RAPIDS 0 0 0 0 - 0
PERHAM 0 6 7 15 - 28
SCORING- SECOND QUARTER- Colton Hackel 6-yard TD run, C. Hackel PAT good, 7-0, 4:12; THIRD QUARTER- Hudson Hackel 1-yard TD run, two-point conversion no good, 13-0, 1:57; FOURTH QUARTER- C. Hackel 7-yard TD run, C. Hackel PAT good, 20-0, 11:10; Braylon Rach 13-yard TD run, C. Hackel; two-point conversion good, 28-0, 8:00