Lakers quiet Thunderhawks
DETROIT LAKES - Much like a test with a big red circled "A" on it, the Detroit Lakes football team had all the answers against a high-scoring Grand Rapids team which entered Friday's game 2-0 and ranked No. 10 in Class 4A.
The Thunderhawks were flying high before Friday's tilt, scoring a combined 90 points in their two decisive victories, but against a reborn Laker defense, they struggled to put up much of a fight as DL picked up its first win of the season 27-6.
The Lakers played stout on both sides of the ball and won the battles in the trenches, as DL held possession for most of the game with 275 yards rushing, while limiting Grand Rapids to a paltry 30 yards on the ground.
The Thunderhawks have made their hay through the air, but constant pressure by the Laker front seven hindered Grand Rapids' quarterback junior Austin Pohlen the entire evening.
One of the factors which helped the Laker defense was an effective rushing attack, led by junior pounder Alex Mason, who notched a season-high 135 yards on 19 carries.
While he was lambasting the Hawk defensive line between the tackles, junior quarterback Joe Mollberg was finding space around the ends, with 106 yards on 20 carries.
"This is obviously the best game our offensive line has had all season," said Laker offensive coordinator and O-line coach Vern Schnathorst. "This group basically returns only one starter in Bryce Dutton, so it has been a work in progress and tonight they played well."
Defensively, the Lakers bent a bit early on, but didn't break, holding the Thunderhawks on downs after Grand Rapids drove deep in DL's territory on their first two possessions, but came up empty both times.
The opening drive featured that potent passing attack, as Pohlen hit a streaking Jacob Sutherland down the middle of the field and over the DL secondary for a 46-yard bomb to the Laker 23.
But DL's defense buckled down, forcing three straight incompletions, as Grand Rapids stalled on DL's 17.
The Lakers used the other side of the spectrum to move the ball, gobbling up intermediate amounts of yardage on the ground.
Mason and Mollberg led the attack behind the improved offensive line, as DL went 83 yards on eight plays -- despite a long 32-yard running play by Mollberg being wiped out on offsetting penalties.
Mason's 26-yard rush through the middle of the Hawk defense allowed Mollberg to finish off the march on two rushes for the combined three yards needed for the 7-0 lead.
"We've been working hard all week to pound the ball, and the offensive line blew some big holes open," Mason said. "We wanted to bring it to them after we lost to them last year after having a big lead on them."
Once again, the Thunderhawks were able to drive the ball down the field, mostly through the ether of Mollberg Field, as Pohlen connected with junior wideout Patrick Flaherty on a 20-yard pickup, finally taking the ball to the Laker seven.
But as the entire evening went, there were Laker defenders in Pohlen's grill and on fourth and three from the DL seven, it was no different.
Senior linebacker Logan Baker secured a huge stop by DL's defense, as he sacked Pohlen for a 14-yard loss to give the ball back to the offense on their own 24.
The second drive mirrored the first, with Mason pounding the holes between the tackles, setting up a long 49-yard pass from Mollberg to slotback Nate Baker down to the Hawk 34.
Mason picked up 14 on the next play, and eventually bulled his way in from the two to leave DL up 14-0 after Steven Labine's second PAT kick of the night with 10:21 in the second quarter.
The Thunderhawks wasted an interception later in the quarter, after defensive end Jon Gilson blasted Pohlen from behind, forcing a fumble, with DL recovering.
The Lakers also forced Grand Rapids to punt on back-to-back possessions after Gilson's stick on Pohlen, rendering the Thunderhawks' offense punchless.
With the Grand Rapids defenders starting to show some exhaustion, the Lakers put together a grinding seven-play, 65-yard drive, with all plays being rushes.
Logan Baker broke took a 19-yarder, while Mason followed with a 24-yarder and Mollberg taking it 16 yards around left end to the Grand Rapids five.
Mason rushed past the pylon from four yards out, and DL led 21-0 heading into halftime.
"If you just keep winning the line of scrimmage game, it wears on a defense," Schnathorst said.
The Thunderhawks broke their scoreless streak after DL ran out of steam on the GR 31 to start the third quarter.
Pohlen was deadly accurate in the scoring drive, going 6-7 for a total of 63 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown strike over the middle on a slant to Matt Dorholt.
The game had potential of being a repeat of last year, when Grand Rapids rallied back from a 21-0 third quarter deficit, forcing DL to punt on their next two possessions.
But the Laker defense would have none of that, also forcing the Thunderhawks to punt on a pair of three-and-out possessions.
A final backbreaking scoring drive by the Lakers ate up the clock and ground. The drive included 11 plays -- 10 of them rushes -- which covered 57 yards.
DL had four first downs in the drive, one coming on a big third and eight on a Mason catch out in the flat from Mollberg for nine yards.
Mason finished it off from one yard out to close out the game 27-6.
The offensive line of Dutton, junior center Josh Olson, junior right guard David Perry, senior right tackle Levi Fairbanks and junior left tackle Luke Hestdalen kept Mollberg upright and the rushing game moving.
Mollberg passed for 100 yards and two interceptions after going 5-12, while Pohlen was 19-41 for 240 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
The DL QB hit four different receivers, as his favorite target -- senior wideout Josh Stalberger -- was out with an injury.
After starting 0-2 and coming off a 49-7 loss in Bismarck last week, the win was a refreshing start of what will hopefully be more victories.
"We just want to keep bringing it every week now," Mason said.
"It's a big win over a good team," Schnathorst said. "It gives us some confidence heading into next week, where we hope we can keep it rolling."
The Lakers game against Fargo Davies was originally scheduled to be played in Fargo, but will be held at Mollberg Field Friday, starting at 7 p.m.
Grand Rapids at Detroit Lakes, Friday, Sept. 17.
Thunderhawks 0 0 6 0 - 6
Lakers 7 14 0 6 - 27
DL: Joe Mollberg 1-yard run; Steven Labine kick. 5:55, 1st quarter.
DL: Alex Mason 2-yard run; Steven Labine kick. 10:21, 2nd.
DL: Mason 4-yard run; Labine kick. 2:07, 2nd.
GR: Matt Dorholt 10-yard pass from Austin Pohlen; kick failed. 6:24, 3rd.
DL: Mollberg 1-yard run; kick failed. 2:02, 4th.
Rushing (att-net yds) -- DL: Alex Mason 19-135; Joe Mollberg 20-106; Logan Baker 6-33; Nate Baker 1-1. Team: 46-275....GR: Austin Pohlen 12-16; Pat Hopkins 3-7; Evan Anderson 1-4; Matt Dorholt 1-2; Daniel McGuire 2-1. Team: 19-30.
Passing (att-comp-inc-int-yds-td) -- DL: Mollberg 12-5-5-2-100-0...GR: Pohlen 41-19-22-0-240-1.
Receiving (rec-yds-td) -- DL: Jacob Sutherland 6-96-0; Pat Flaherty 5-76-0; Dorholt 3-27-1; Tyrel Cournoyer 2-22-0; McGuire 2-4-0; Hopkins 1-14.