Football: Yellowjackets shutout Park Rapids in season opener.
Perham's defense and big-play offense opened the season in style with a shutout of Park Rapids on Friday night.
PARK RAPIDS – Over the years, the Perham football team has been known for developing big-play quarterbacks.
Blaiz Schmidt appears to be ready to continue that tradition.
The junior quarterback passed for only 139 yards in his first varsity start against Park Rapids in the season opener at Vern Weekley Field on Friday, Sept. 2. However, one of those completions was a 62-yard scoring strike that helped the Yellowjackets to a 22-0 victory in this battle between Section 8AAA and Midwest Red District rivals.
Led by a stifling defense, Perham overcame three turnovers to claim a 15-0 lead at the half.
The Yellowjackets lost a fumble on the third play from scrimmage, but regained possession on the next play when Braylon Rach pounced on a loose ball.
After the Yellowjackets were forced to punt, Park Rapids used an 18-yard reception by Matt Johanning and an 8-yard run by quarterback Noah Morris to reach the Perham 44. That drive stalled when Kaden Feldt recovered a fumble.
On the next play, Noah Larson recovered a fumble as the Panthers regained possession at the Perham 43. Two plays later, Sawyer Dilbeck intercepted a pass at the 37 and returned it 28 yards to the Park Rapids 35.
The Yellowjackets capitalized on that turnover when Rach followed a 15-yard run with a 6-yard carry before capping off the short drive with a 6-yard TD run. Hudson Hackel’s kick gave Perham a 7-0 lead with 10:28 to play in the first half.
Jaydon Walen broke free for a 15-yard run on the ensuing series, but Perham’s defense held and forced the Panthers to punt again.
It took Perham only two plays to extend its lead when Blaiz Schmidt hit Gage Aanenson on a 62-yard scoring play. Aanenson, who fumbled the snap on the extra-point kick, picked up the loose ball and ran in the conversion to give the Yellowjackets a 15-0 lead at the 6:33 mark.
Dilbeck’s fumble recovery at the Park Rapids 12 gave the Yellowjackets another scoring opportunity, but Johanning’s interception in the end zone ended that threat.
Both teams exchanged punts to close out the first half.
The Panthers opened the second half with a 10-play drive. A facemask penalty on a Morris keeper and a 19-yard reception by Luke Hartung gave Park Rapids a first down at the Perham 32. That drive stalled at the 24.
On Park Rapids’ next series, Walen’s 11-yard run led to a first down at the Perham 48. The Yellowjackets’ defense held and forced a punt.
A fumble recovery by Larson gave the Panthers possession at the Perham 43. A penalty for illegal contact on a defenseless player on a pass to Mason Yliniemi gave Park Rapids a first down at the 33. But that drive stalled at the 28.
Perham put together a scoring threat when Schmidt hit Evan Kovash on a 12-yard route and a 9-yard route, found Noah Thompson for a 14-yard gain and hit Aanenson on a 24-yard play as the Yellowjackets advanced to the Park Rapids 8. Johanning ended that 11-play drive by interception a pass at the 2.
The Panthers were forced to punt and Perham concluded the scoring with an eight-play, 33-yard drive. Hackel rushed seven times for 34 yards, capped off with a 1-yard TD plunge. Hackel’s kick made it 22-0 with 54 seconds to play.
Hackel rushed 15 times for 77 yards while Schimidt completed 8 of 14 passes for 139 yards with Aanenson hauling in two passes for 86 yards as the Yellowjackets finished with 227 yards in offense.
In addition to forcing five turnovers, Perham’s defense held the Panthers to 119 yards in offense. Walen rushed six times for 32 yards while Morris had 26 yards on 20 carries and completed 8 of 21 passes for 62 yards. Hartung caught three passes for 32 yards and Johanning had two receptions for 23 yards.
Leading the Yellowjackets’ defense was Ben Shumansky with 11 total tackles and a sack.
Perham will host Thief River Falls this Friday night (Sept. 9) with a 7 p.m. kickoff.
"Our game plan was to go in and play disciplined defense and hopefully win the field position game. Coach (Jeremy) Nordick always has a really athletic and aggressive team and they do a good job attacking us in different ways to give us problems on the offensive side. In an attempt to help that, we wanted to try and control the ball on the ground and use different rushing attacks. Overall we did a good job of that and came away with a win, but we need to clean up some of the turnover issues. I think a lot of that was first game jitters and we need to just work some kinks out," said Perham head coach Aron Velde. "Going into Week 2, we will continue to build on the good things from this week and we will focus on ball security."