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From left, Park’s Matt Schmidt, Isaiah Hart and Zach Fritz celebrate a 36-28 homecoming game victory over rival Woodbury on Friday, the Wolfpack's first over the Royals since 2002. (Submitted photo by Scott Briggs)

Park football: Wolfpack celebrate homecoming with 36-28 win over rival Woodbury

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Park football: Wolfpack celebrate homecoming with 36-28 win over rival Woodbury
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

The Wolfpack football team gave Park High School something to celebrate on homecoming night.

Park got a big offensive performance from senior wide receiver/running back Elias Arlington and its defense strengthened when needed to end an eight-game losing streak to intra-district and Suburban East Conference rival Woodbury on Friday with a 36-28 in Cottage Grove.

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The last time the Wolfpack (2-4, 2-4 SEC) defeated the Royals (2-4, 2-4 SEC) came in 2002 when Park won 26-0 behind 126 yards rushing and a touchdown from Jayson Almodovar. The Wolfpack had 300 yards rushing in that game.

Woodbury defeated Park 43-7 last season and Wolfpack head coach Darin Glazier used the disparity in scores last season against opponents as motivation heading into his team’s homecoming matchup with its district rival.

“I told the kids the deficits we lost to these teams last year … it was very lopsided every time we’ve played them since I took over coaching here,” said Glazier, who is in his third season as Park’s head coach. “To turn the tables like that was very satisfying. Those kids were unbelievable. The whole homecoming week here at school was so positive, the energy was positive, the kids were great.”

Arlington put together his finest performance of the season with four touchdowns and 331 all-purpose yards. Arlington rushed for 81 yards with one touchdown, caught seven passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns and threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Ken Gay.

His final score capped an 11-play, 77-yard game-winning drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to put Park up 36-28 after a 2-point conversion with 4 minutes, 57 seconds left to play.

“I came into this game probably the most mentally focused I’ve been in any game so far,” Arlington said. “It’s my first and last homecoming. I wanted to leave my mark.”

Arlington certainly left his mark with a 60-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter and a 55-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. His touchdown pass to Gay put the Wolfpack up 21-14 after a 2-point conversion and turned the tide.

“He broke the game open on those big runs,” Glazier said. “It’s so nice to have that playmaker on your team that at any given moment they can break one off and they can outrun angles and get you that touchdown. It gives you confidence as a team, just knowing that you have that threat.”

Freshman quarterback Brandon Alt, who completed 16 of 26 passes for 275 yards with three touchdowns, found junior Jeb Melson on a fade route for a 12-yard touchdown in the second quarter to make it a 28-14 with 2:32 left in the half.

The Royals gained some traction to end the half when senior Nick Yan caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Brady Mundahl with 1:15 left in the half.

Woodbury, which finished with 444 yards of total offense, continued that momentum into the second half and took the opening possession down the field to tie the game at 28-28 on an 8-yard touchdown reception from senior Landon Crossley from Mundahl.

Mundahl had three touchdown passes in the game, including a 56-yard touchdown pass to senior Reid Peters that put the Royals up 6-0 on Woodbury’s first offensive possession of the game.

Donnell Rodgers rushed for a 3-yard touchdown in the first quarter to put the Royals back on top after Park had taken a 7-6 lead on Arlington’s 60-yard touchdown reception.

“We moved it at will, but when it came to a critical down we did something undisciplined, ran the wrong route, missed our pass protection, we run to the wrong hole,” Woodbury head coach Andy Hill said. “On third and fourth down we’ve got to execute better.”

The Royals had three opportunities to score, but failed, including an opportunity from inside the 10-yard line in the third quarter in a tie game. Woodbury drove to the Park 3-yard line before losing 4 yards and throwing two incomplete passes to end the threat.

That stop marked just one of several for the Wolfpack that turned out pivotal. Park’s defense had to deliver one final stop after it had just forced another turnover on downs when the offense lost a fumble. The Wolfpack got that final stop when senior defensive back Ryan Klika intercepted a pass with 39 seconds left to play after the Royals had driven to Park’s 12-yard line.

 “We were fired up, we knew we could stop them,” Wolfpack senior linebacker Kahlen Boich said. “We just knew if we made no mistakes, went out there and played our defense we would do it.”

With the turnover, Park picked up its second victory of the season, the team’s most wins since 2008.

The Wolfpack forced three turnovers on downs in the second half to secure the victory. Park gave up plenty of yards, but didn’t break in crunch time.

“We keep saying bend, don’t break, bend, don’t break,” Boich said. “As long as we do not break we’re fine. We can give up the yards as long as we don’t break.”

Wolfpack junior running back Brandyn Tulloch rushed for 81 yards on 15 carries as the Park offense put up 500 yards of total offense. Gay finished with five receptions for 133 yards and one touchdown while Melson caught four passes for 50 yards and a touchdown.

The Wolfpack won its first homecoming game since 2009 when it beat East Ridge. That came when this year’s seniors were freshman so the importance of winning a homecoming game wasn’t lost on the seniors.

“Also, doing against someone like Woodbury, who I gotta say last year absolutely killed us,” Boich said. “Just seeing how we’ve been able to turn things around in our summer programs and our coaching staff being able to teach us … it’s been amazing.”

Next, Park faces Cretin-Derham Hall Friday in Cottage Grove while Woodbury faces Hastings in Woodbury.

-Nick Gerhardt

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