Park football: Hastings able to escape Wolfpack Stadium with 21-7 win
When opportunities came knocking on Friday Hastings knew how to answer the door, but Park struggled to take advantage of its ample chances in a 21-7 loss in Cottage Grove.
The Raiders took advantage of a short field and a fumble as the Wolfpack suffered its fifth consecutive loss since starting the season with a 47-12 victory over Forest Lake. Park, which had just two takeaways for the season prior to the game, forced three turnovers and only got seven points in a frustrating Wolfpack loss.
Hastings (3-3, 3-3 SEC) recovered a fumble at its own 35-yard line with 8 minutes left in the game and took it 75 yards for a touchdown to go up 21-7 and seal the victory. On fourth-and-5 from the Raiders' 27-yard-line Park quarterback Sam Domeier tried to run for the first down, but lost the ball and Hastings' Zach Anderson scooped it up and returned it for 75 yards for the touchdown.
The recovery and touchdown ended a Wolfpack drive that started at its own 1-yard line with the team trailing 14-7 with 11:46 left to play.
The Raiders came in as the No. 1 passing offense in the Suburban East Conference, but the wind and Park's defense held the Raiders in check. Hastings quarterback Alex Wiese finished 10 of 23 for 125 yards and two touchdowns, but he also had three interceptions. It was the first time this season the Wolfpack (1-5, 1-5 SEC) had intercepted an opponent.
"We were really proud of those kids today on defense," Wolfpack head coach Darin Glazier said. "A couple minor things that we can keep working on but overall when you look at our performance over the last few weeks this is a great step up for us."
Park held Hastings to four first downs and 169 yards of total offense. The Raiders had just 44 yards rushing. The Wolfpack offense had 182 yards of total offense.
Domeier emerged as more of a running threat and finished with a team-high 75 yards rushing on 11 attempts. He also went 7 of 18 passing for 83 yards.
Hastings took a 14-0 lead in the first half after Brandon McCarthy turned a screen pass into a 48-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
The Raiders added to the lead in the second quarter after the Wolfpack botched a punt. The snap went over the head of punter Jordan Ijomah and he couldn't recover into time to get a punt off before a Hastings player fell on the ball at the Park 7-yard line. On first-and-goal Wiese found Ross Dylla in the end zone to make it 14-0 with 3:55 left in the half.
The Wolfpack drove down to the Raiders 5-yard line on the ensuing possession, but with time running out in the half, failed to score. Park had a first-and-goal situation after a 33-yard run from Domeier with 53 seconds left. The Wolfpack ran a sweep with David Gaidyu but came up short on third down. With time winding down, Park tried to get another play off, but couldn't before the end of the half and missed on an opportunity.
"We kind of rolled the dice with running a sweep with time running out," Glazier said. "We were very concerned about the passing game at the time because we weren't picking up the blitzes very well and they were bringing the house inside. We didn't want to go into the half seeing our quarterback give up a sack because there just wasn't any time for the routes to develop. Took a chance and it didn't pay off."
There wasn't much time for Domeier to find receivers with the offensive line dealing with illness and injury. The Wolfpack played without their starting center, who missed the game with bronchitis, dealt with another offensive lineman playing with bronchitis, and Park's Kahlen Boich hobbled off the field twice during the game as he tried to play through injuries and illness.
The second half got off to a good start for the Wolfpack, but they struggled to take advantage. Park intercepted Wiese on the first two Hastings possessions and only came away with seven points.
Wolfpack defensive lineman Cody Linssen tipped a pass to himself for an interception to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Sam Oredola to make it 14-7 with 7:37 left in the third quarter.
Park got its first interception of the season and the game on the third play of the second half when Anthony Valladares intercepted a tipped pass and returned it 10 yards to the Raiders' 25-yard line. The Wolfpack ran three plays before attempting a 35-yard field goal that went wide left.
Park also stopped Hastings on a punt attempt by tackling the punter for a loss and took over at the Raiders' 39-yard line in the second quarter, only to go three-and-out.
"When you're the underdog you have to take advantage of those things," Glazier said. "There's a reason we're a one-win team right now. We've got to take care of those types of things. I think for a large part of the game it felt like we were doing what we needed to do."
The Wolfpack got another turnover with 3:56 left to play in the game when Giadyu picked off a pass. Park couldn't get anything going offensively on the possession and lost yardage after a sack to force a punt. Hastings took over at the Wolfpack's 39-yard line after a fake punt attempt and went three-and-out. On fourth down the Raiders punted and pinned Park at its 1-yard line to start the fourth quarter.
"The third quarter ran out way too quick for us with the wind at our back," Glazier said. "All of a sudden we're running our offense into the wind and it seemed like a battle for us. We just weren't winning the field position game all night."
The game seemed like a step in the right direction for Park after struggling to stop any offense throughout the previous four weeks.
"We got a lot of positives that we can look back at with this game and say we competed against a pretty darn good team," Glazier said. "We've got to feel good about ourselves moving into this East Ridge game."
The Wolfpack faces East Ridge Friday in Woodbury.