Park football: Sixth-ranked Prior Lake grounds Wolfpack
PRIOR LAKE - Park's offense sputtered and Prior Lake's punishing rushing attack rolled Friday in a 47-7 victory in the opening round of the Class 6A, Section 3 playoffs at Dan Patch Stadium.
The sixth-ranked Lakers (8-1) led by a stable of running backs scored all of their offensive touchdowns on the ground. Jack Johnson, who led Prior Lake with 802 yards and 12 touchdowns in the regular season, scored three times while Blake Weber, Parker Anderson and Alex Feine added rushing touchdowns in the rout.
Johnson led the Lakers with 98 yards on 13 carries, Feine added 94 yards on five carries and Weber had 92 yards on nine carries. Prior Lake finished with 325 yards of total offense, all but 17 came on the ground.
The Wolfpack (1-8) struggled mightily on offense in the first half and had just one first down in the half. Park finished with just 165 yards of total offense and most of those yards came late in the game. Park lost four fumbles in the game and had one returned for a touchdown in the second quarter with 30 seconds left.
"You can't make those types of mistakes against a good team and still expect to compete," Wolfpack head coach Darin Glazier said. "Unfortunately we've been doing that to ourselves quite a bit this year."
The turnovers gave the top-seeded Lakers a short field for the majority of the game. Prior Lake started six of its seven first-half drives in Park territory. The Lakers scored on two of the four fumbles and missed a field goal after another fumble.
"We had some trouble with high snaps, we had some trouble with the quarterback-running back exchange," Glazier said. "We just talked at half and said, 'Basic fundamental football that we're failing at right now. That's what's costing us big time.'"
Penalties didn't help either. The Wolfpack got whistled for nine penalties for 65 yards.
The Wolfpack, who played without starting quarterback Sam Domeier and starting running back Dylan Smallidge, didn't get a first down in the second half until Prior Lake had gone up 40-0 with 2 minutes, 16 seconds left in the third quarter.
Park got its lone touchdown with 2:01 left to play when quarterback J.T. Bickel capped off an eight-play, 80-yard drive with a 2 yard plunge that made it 47-7. Bickel finished 9 of 14 for 115 yards. Evan Niewind caught two passes for 46 yards and Erik Black led the team with five catches for 30 yards.
The Wolfpack's defense played well in spots despite seeing a lot of action because of the turnovers. The Lakers led 27-0 at halftime. But Park gave up big plays early because of missed tackles. Johnson got loose for a 49-yard touchdown for the game's first score and Weber followed that with a 51-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to go up 14-0. Johnson added a 5-yard touchdown in the second quarter with 1:17 left on a three-play drive following the Wolfpack's third fumble.
Johnson's 5-yard run summed up the kind of night it was for the Park defense. The Wolfpack stopped Johnson as he tried to power through the line for a touchdown, but Park never wrapped him up and he bounced from the scrum to the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
"I would chalk it up to not wrapping up on a couple of plays," Glazier said. "Other than that I thought defensively we handled them pretty well. The problem was we were turning the ball over in our own end and not making them work too hard to get touchdowns."
Park forced three stops in the first half, but giving Prior Lake a short field for nearly every possession made stopping the Lakers tougher.
Prior Lake opened the second half much like the first half - running. The Lakers use of deception in the backfield worked well as Anderson scored from 3 yards out and Johnson scored from a yard out to make it a 40-0 game in the third quarter. Feine added an 80-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter when the reserves came on for Prior Lake.
The Wolfpack graduate 14 seniors from this year's team, a team that snapped a 21-game losing streak with a 47-12 victory over Forest Lake to start the season.
"We'll regroup and hope for another good year next year as far as doing the little things right and eliminating mistakes," Glazier said.