Detroit Lakes overcame a shaky start and missed opportunities but managed to take control in the fourth quarter of a 21-7 victory on the turf at East Grand Forks Thursday afternoon to improve to 2-0 on the season.
“We knew they had a big line and we could wear them down after a while and that’s what we did,” said running back Caeden Yliniemi. “Once we started going in the fourth quarter.”
Late in the game, the Laker defense set the table for the offense, while the Green Wave struck early but were unable to capitalize on their own scoring chances the rest of the game.
Both teams traded turnovers on the opening drives of the game. DL had the wind at their back but coughed up the ball on fourth down to give the Green Wave good field position at the Laker 39-yard line.
Seven plays later, EGF faced fourth-and-12 from the 25. Quarterback Sam Votava threw to the end zone but his pass was picked off by Clay Perkins who returned it back to the 25.
A pair of Jake Green runs gave DL a first down but the Lakers punted away from their own 40.
On the second play from scrimmage, Votava faked a handoff and ran a QB draw up the middle untouched for 70 yards for the first score of the game. Justin Overgaard’s kick was good for a 7-0 lead for the home team.
The Lakers responded with a 9-play drive to the Wave 17-yard line. A 19-yard Christian Solberg touchdown run was called back on a holding call, one of a number of substantial DL plays called back by flags in the game, which drew the ire of the Laker coaching staff.
On third-and-seven from the 17, Matthew Tobkin was set to pass but was forced to scramble. Cole Gerber sacked Tobkin and forced the ball loose into the hands of Jack Fuller for the second DL turnover on the first play of the second quarter.
After unsuccessful drives for each team, the Green Wave marched 49 yards on seven plays to the Laker 15 where Overgaard lined up for a 33-yard field goal with less than four minutes remaining in the half.
His kick was left, going with the wind, and hit the upright, bounced down off the top of the crossbar and into the end zone no good to keep the game a one-score affair.
DL had 3:33 on the clock to work with but looked stalled facing fourth-and-eight at their own 35. Head coach Josh Omang called for the fake and a direct snap to Green gave DL new life after an 18-yard gain across midfield.
Five plays later, Tobkin hit Ty Jones on a 26-yard touchdown pass with 18 ticks left on the clock and Braeden Wimmer tied the score with the point-after try to send the teams to the half knotted 7-7.
That was a big one," Omang said. "I'll give (East Grand Forks) a lot of credit, and we knew this from the past, they're always physical. They were giving us all we could handle. But that was a huge part in the game. They always talk about the last couple of minutes before and after the half."
The message at the break was simple.
“Just go hard,” Yliniemi said.
East Grand Forks gave DL a splendid opportunity early in the half to score. On the second play, DL’s Garett Nelson picked off Votava at the Wave 18-yard line.
The EGF defense stiffened and forced a fourth down pass from the 16 from Tobkin to Yliniemi that was six yards short of the first down.
Neither team threatened on their ensuing drives.
The Lakers got another chance in Green Wave territory when an EGF drive started with a run up the middle that was met swiftly in the backfield where the ball was stripped and pounced on by the Lakers’ Connor Zamzo at the EGF 32-yard line.
The Wave defense stood tall again forcing a turnover on downs after DL gained five yards on three plays and Tobkin was incomplete on fourth-and-five.
After three quarters of play, the teams remained deadlocked at one touchdown each.
Votava gave the ball back to DL on the second play of the fourth quarter when his pass, thrown on the run, was tipped by Perkins and deflected into the waiting hands of Solberg, who returned the ball to the Green Wave 21.
That turnover was the difference in the game and led to DL putting up two unanswered touchdowns quickly.
Four plays later, a hard-running Yliniemi raced to the pylon from 10 yards out to give the Lakers the lead for good 14-7 after Wimmer’s kick with 9:24 to play.
“Once I put the ball over I knew there was no way it wasn’t a touchdown,” said Yliniemi.
An answering drive by the home team ended in their own fake punt attempt near midfield that failed, giving DL the ball at the Wave 43 on downs.
Green started the Laker march with a 29-yard run negated by holding, but four consecutive rushing plays ended in a 25-yard Solberg run to the six and his scoring run on the next snap for a 21-7 lead with five minutes left in the game.
EGF was turned over on downs after eight plays and DL took over with three minutes to go on the visitor’s 40. A 33-yard touchdown run by Yliniemi was called back on another holding call on the third play from scrimmage and Omang instructed his quarterback to take a knee with the game in hand and the clock winding down.
Solberg led DL with 12 carries for 92 yards and a TD. Green was 19-89 and Yliniemi had seven carries for 47 yards and a TD.
Tobkin was 5-11 passing for 58 yards and a score in difficult throwing conditions.
The Laker defense was the key to victory holding EGF (0-2) to 221 total yards and forcing four turnovers while surviving the big score early and putting up zeroes the remaining three quarters of play.
Detroit Lakes returns to Mollberg Field for the annual rivalry game against Fergus Falls Friday, Oct. 23. The 1-0 Otters play at Thief River Falls (0-1) Thursday night.
Detroit Lakes 21, East Grand Forks 7
DL 0 7 0 14 - 21
EG 7 0 0 0 - 7
E - Sam Votava 70 run (Justin Overgaard kick)
D - Ty Jones 26 pass from Matt Tobkin (Braeden Wimmer kick)
D - Caeden Yliniemi 10 run (Wimmer kick)
D - Christian Solberg 6 run (Wimmer kick)