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Lakers stay on top of HOL with win in Park Rapids

PARK RAPIDS -  Two straight drives resulting in touchdowns to start the third quarter was enough of a cushion for the Detroit Lakes’ defense, as the Class 4A No. 6 Lakers escaped with a 14-7 win on the road against the Class 3A No. 9 ranked Park Rapids Friday evening.

The Lakers (6-0) were missing a crucial ingredient in a sluggish first half, but was quickly corrected to start the third quarter, which helped propel both scoring drives after trailing 7-0 at halftime to the Panthers (4-2).

Senior running back Jarett Nosal had just two carries for six yards in the first two quarters, as the offense struggled to establish their rhythm, partly due to back-to-back fumbles in the first quarter which derailed two drives.

“You can’t have turnovers, no matter who you’re playing,” said DL head coach Flint Motschenbacher. “The defense did step up and didn’t allow any points on those turnovers, though.”

But the halftime adjustments got the offense back to their bread and butter – running the football.

“In the first half, they really shut our run down to the outside,” said Nosal, who ended up with 97 rushing yards with 91 coming in the second half. “But we told our line to nose them up and hit them back and they started to open up some big holes up the middle in the third quarter.”

The Lakers had to answer Park Rapids’ second quarter touchdown, which the drive was extended on a fake punt, which netted a first down on fourth and two, as well as a DL personal foul on fourth and 10, which gave the Panthers a fresh set of downs.

Six plays later, PR quarterback Tyler McCollum dove in from one yard to score the lone points of the first half.

But the focus of the offensive line was evident, as Nosal ripped off a 29-yard run off right tackle on the second half’s first play.

From there, Herzog and Nosal took turns running the ball with the veer option, as it took only six plays to tie the game 7-7 after a Herzog 18-yard run around right tackle.

The score builds on Herzog’s all-time leading scoring record, who now has 288 career points.

After a forced punt on Park Rapids’ ensuing possession, the Lakers again put together a six-play drive, starting on the Panthers’ 46 to take the lead.

No run up the middle went for under four yards, as Nosal and Herzog, along with running back Forrest Schleske, marched to the Park Rapids’ 20.

Nosal busted out from the right side and burst through the secondary untouched to put DL up 14-0 after Luke Payne’s second PAT kick of the evening.

“We bucked down in the second half and started playing Laker football,” Nosal added.

Scoring touchdowns in the red zone has also been a good sign of Laker football, which they improved on by scoring 16 touchdowns in 17 trips inside their opponents’ 20 yard line this season.

Herzog led the rushing attack, by picking up 181 yards on 23 carries, again, with the majority coming in the second half.

With the score 14-7 in favor of the Lakers, they employed a hard-hitting defense, highlighted by some bone-jarring hits by Schleske.

“Wow, Forrest was hitting some people out there,” Nosal said. “It was a good, physical game.”

The Panthers proved to be up to the task of taking on the physical play, as they dished out some of their own.

But a lack of a rushing game, which picked up only 71 yards on 29 carries for the Panthers, made it difficult to sustain drives.

They had two drives in the third quarter ending on turnover on downs, and the fourth quarter picking up just three first downs.

On their final drive of the game, the Panthers were able to drive to the DL 45 with just over five minutes remaining.

But a third and 10 pass, which was ruled a backward lateral, was recovered by the Lakers with 4:18 remaining in the game.

DL was able to put on a clock-killing drive, which ate up 10 plays, three first downs and 38 yards, which effectively ended the game.

“The biggest thing in the second half, we were able to hold the ball away from them and played better football,” Motschenbacher said. “The defense really stepped up and held down their running game. The linemen did a good job there in the second half.”

Panther quarterback Tyler McCollum was able to hook up on some longer routes and finished going 11-28 for 174 yards and one interception, which was by junior cornerback Ryan Cihak late in the second quarter.

Schleske made several big drive-killing plays from his linebacker position, along with a jarring hit on a kickoff coverage tackle.

“We were able to stick them up the middle and stopped their rushing game pretty good,” Schleske said. “This is a game which will fire us up for next week, since it’s a pretty big rivalry game.”

What Schleske is talking about, of course, is Friday’s home game against rival Perham.

The win extends the Lakers’ Heart O’Lakes Conference winning streak to 13 games, with the last conference team beating DL being Perham in 2011.

A close, hard-fought game in Park Rapids could be just the right kind of win which could push the Lakers’ momentum into a higher gear.

“This is a good smack in the face for us, because we know we’ll need to be ready for next week,” Nosal added.

The Yellowjackets (4-2) will be a little ornery when they visit Mollberg Field, after losing to Thief River Falls 34-14 Friday.

A win by the Lakers will almost seal the HOL championship, with Park Rapids and Perham each at 3-1 and DL at 4-0 in the conference.

Detroit Lakes at Park Rapids, Friday, Oct. 4

Lakers       0 0 14 0 – 14

Panthers   0 7  0  0  -  7

PR: Tyler McCollum 1-yard run; kick good. 2:11, 2nd quarter

DL: Michael Herzog 18-yard run; Luke Payne kick. 9:50, 3rd

DL: Jarett Nosal 20-yard run; Payne kick. 6:19, 3rd

Rushing (att-yds-yds lost-net) – DL: Michael Herzog 23-181-1-180; Jarett Nosal 15-99-2-97; Forrest Schleske 3-13-0-13; Christian Hedstrom 3-1-4-(-3). TOTAL: 44-294-7-287…PR: Jon Burlingame 11-36-1-35; Ben Baumgartner 7-24-1-23; Drew Bade 1-10-0-10; Noah MacPherson 1-3-0-3; Josh Severston 3-4-3-1; Tyler McCollum 2-1-0-1; Tristan Breitroeser 1-0-0-0; Matt Bade 3-5-7-(-2). TOTAL: 29-83-12-71.

Passing (att-comp-inc-int-yds-td) – DL: Herzog 11-4-6-1-46-0…PR: McCollum 28-11-16-1-174-0

Receiving (rec-yds-td) – DL: Michael Herrmann 1-32-0; Christian Hedstrom 1-8-0; Nosal 1-7-0; Casey Paskey 1-(-1)-0…PR: Drew Bade 4-95-0; Noah MacPherson 2-47-0; Ben Baumgartner 2-5-0; Riley Massie 1-13-0; Derek Parozinski 1-10-0; Burlingame 1-4-0

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