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No. 4 Lakers clinch top seed for playoffs with win over Crookston

Laker defenders Josh Weber (68), Kirby Siewert (78) Tyler Gebhart (76) and Brandon Johnson (58) celebrate a sack during a home game earlier this season. Photo by - Brian Basham1 / 2
Laker running back Jarret Nosal (40) and DL head coach Flint Motschenbacher go over some offensive strategy during a home game this season. Photo by - Brian Basham2 / 2

CROOKSTON - The Class 4A No. 4 ranked Detroit Lakes football team found a couple of equalizers for the nasty weather they were playing in against the Crookston Pirates Wednesday, and it came in the form of strong offensive line play and the rushing of junior quarterback Michael Herzog.

The offensive line create just enough of a hole on a consistent basis to aid Herzog, who rushed the ball 39 times for a total of 215 yards, which keyed DL's 28-20 victory.

The win completed the team's undefeated regular season at 8-0 and more importantly, clinched the top seed for the upcoming Section 8-4A playoffs.

"We couldn't throw a pass in that kind of weather and we couldn't run outside the tackles," said DL head coach Flint Motschenbacher. "We had no choice but to run it up the middle. The offensive line did a good job and gave us a lot of looks up front."

Those looks usually resulted in a five to six-yard gain by either Herzog or junior running back Jarret Nosal, who gained 77 yards on 17 carries.

Ball control was a huge factor in DL's win, as the Lakers held a sizable edge in possession by snapping 66 plays to Crookston's 32, while picking up 18 first downs to the Pirates' three.

"The field conditions were probably the worst I've seen, so ball control was big," Motschenbacher said. "We did what we had to do."

The Lakers' defense also played well, limiting the Heart O'Lakes North Conference rushing leader, sophomore running back Luke Edlund, to 114 yards -- with a big chunk of it coming on a 69-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

"We stacked the box, because throwing a pass was unthinkable in those conditions," Motschenbacher said. "It's tough to run with eight to nine guys in the box."

But the Lakers were able to consistently move the ball between the tackles, without the aid of a passing threat.

Herzog passed the ball only once, while the other one he threw resulted in a fumbled backward lateral and a 58-yard touchdown return by Crookston defender Aaron Hollcraft, which tied the game 14-14 at the 5:08 mark in the second quarter.

The Lakers found early success by gaining long runs to bolt out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

The first drive resulted in a seven-play, 68-yard march, where Herzog had a rush of 29 yards, Stephen Erb one of 19 and Nosal a 16-yarder.

Herzog capped it with a one-yard plunge, with Erb setting DL up nicely with an interception on the Crookston 42 on the next series.

The Laker quarterback went off-tackle for gains of 16 and 11, which led to another one-yard TD run and a two-point conversion rush for the 14-0 advantage.

But Crookston was able to eventually tie the score after they found some explosive rushes on the next drive, which incidentally came on a couple of sweeps by quarterback Dylan Klatt for gains of 20 and 26 yards.

Edlund bulled his way in from the one to end the first quarter, while Hollcraft's 58-yard fumble return for a touchdown put the halftime mark at 14-14.

"In the second quarter, we just got caught in the mudslick at midfield and had a hard time moving the ball," Motschenbacher said.

But the Lakers reestablished their rushing game with two touchdown drives in the third quarter, which ate up 17 plays and a total of 125 yards.

The biggest gains came on runs of 15 and 14 yards, but DL kept their third downs to short yardage, while picking up seven first downs in the two scoring series.

Nosal capped the first on a seven-yard run and Herzog scored his third touchdown on a five-yard effort.

Edlund's 69-yard burst out of the hole did tie the game 20-20 with 5:05 left in the third, but Herzog's third touchdown put DL up 26-20, with Crookston unable to come back after snapping only 12 plays total in the second half and picking up zero first downs.

DL added a safety in the fourth quarter to end the scoring.

Klatt only attempted two passes, one being picked off by Erb, while the Crookston QB gathered 52 rushing yards on seven carries.

The Lakers will hold the top seed for the playoffs and will gain a first-round bye. The opening round of the playoffs will most likely put No. 6 East Grand Forks (3-5) at No. 3 Fergus Falls (5-3) and No. 5 Little Falls (3-5) at No. 4 Thief River Falls (3-4).

The Lakers will host the winner between the Little Falls and TRF game Saturday, Oct. 27, while No. 2 Rocori (5-3) will host the victor between Fergus Falls and East Grand Forks.

Laker results

Detroit Lakes at Crookston, Wednesday, Oct. 17.

Lakers 14 0 22 2 - 28

Pirates 6 8 6 0 - 20

DL: Michael Herzog 1-yard run; pass failed. 7:49, 1st quarter.

DL: Herzog 1-yard run; Herzog run. 3:45, 1st.

Crk: Luke Edlund 1-yard run; kick failed. 1:45, 1st.

Crk: Aaron Hollcraft 58-yard fumble recovery; Parker Epema pass from Dylan Klatt. 5:08, 2nd.

DL: Jarret Nosal 7-yard run; pass failed. (time not available) 3rd.

Crk: Edlund 69-yard run; run failed. 5:55, 3rd.

DL: Herzog 5-yard run; run failed. 1:55, 3rd.

DL: Safety on Crookston. 3:03, 4th.

Rushing (att-yds) -- DL: Michael Herzog 39-215; Jarret Nosal 17-77; Stephen Erb 4-29. TOTALS: 60-321...Crk: Luke Edlund 16-114; Dylan Klatt 7-52; Alex Boone 1-2; TOTALS: 24-168.

Passing (att-comp-inc-int-yds-td) -- DL: Herzog 2-0-1-0-0-0...Crk: Klatt 2-0-2-1-0-0.

Receiving (rec-yds- tds) -- DL: None...Crk: None.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.