Park football: Wolfpack's improbable upset hopes dashed in closing minutes of first half
For 22 minutes of the first half Park put together an improbable run against 10th-ranked Suburban East Conference power Mounds View Friday in Mounds View, but in the span of the final two minutes of the first half that all changed.
The Mustangs (2-0, 2-0 SEC) took advantage of two costly mistakes to quash any possibility of the Wolfpack (0-2, 0-2 SEC) getting back in the game and went on to win 48-17, despite Park putting together an impressive first half.
The Wolfpack played without senior starting quarterback Sam Domeier, who strolled the sidelines in a walking boot due to an ankle sprain and had to insert freshman quarterback Brandon Alt into the lineup. With just four days of practice under his belt Alt stepped in to complete 21 of 42 passes for 222 yards with a touchdown and four interceptions.
Park led 17-14 with 10:21 to play in the first half when things started to fall apart. Mounds View regained the lead with an 11-play, 88-yard drive to go up 21-17 with 3:27 left in the half. On the ensuing Wolfpack possession Mustangs defensive back Nick Justin returned an interception 85 yards to put Mounds View up 28-17.
Just as quick as Park had momentum the Mustangs took it back. Mounds View got one last possession with 41 seconds left in the first half and put an exclamation point on the end of the half on a 40-yard touchdown pass with no time left on the clock, courtesy of penalty. A defensive penalty with no time on the clock allowed the Mustangs one final play and they took advantage when quarterback Chance Carnahan found tight end Ryan Kacynski for a back-breaking touchdown to go up 34-17 at the half.
“We hurt ourselves,” Park head coach Darin Glazier said. “That’s been our theme. We do so many things right and then we do that one thing wrong and we can’t overcome it. Good teams take advantage of it and once again that’s what they did.”
Mounds View finished with 485 yards of total offense, 315 of which came on the ground. Senior defensive back Ryan Klika led the Wolfpack with 8.5 tackles and Park senior linebacker Anthony Valladares had six tackles.
Wolfpack junior running back Brandyn Tulloch rushed for 85 yards on 12 carries, including a 40-yard touchdown run to end the first quarter and cut the Mounds View lead to 14-10.
The Wolfpack pulled ahead 17-14 with 10:21 left in the first half after they recovered a Mustangs fumble on their 8-yard line. One play later Alt found senior wide receiver Elias Arlington for an 8-yard touchdown pass.
“We didn’t start out great but we started to gain a little life and then we had a couple of things go our way and we took advantage of them,” Glazier said.
Arlington finished with a team-high six receptions for 46 yards. Junior Jeb Melson had a team-high 76 yards receiving on three catches. Senior Ken Gay caught four passes for 49 yards, junior Anthony Juba had three receptions for 28 yards and Tulloch caught three passes for 23 yards.
Finishing drives continued to plague Park. The Wolfpack had five red zone possessions and came away with just 10 points.
After ending the first half with a 34-17 lead, the Mustangs put together an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive to open the second half to take a commanding 41-17 lead.
Park squandered a first-and-goal at the 8-yard line on the ensuing drive with two consecutive penalties to push it back to the 18-yard line and followed with four straight incompletions.
“We’re going to take a couple of lessons from these last two weeks and take them back home against White Bear Lake and hopefully see something turn around for us,” Glazier said.
Mounds View scored on its first two possessions of the game, including a three-play drive to make it 14-3 after the Wolfpack had just cut the lead to 7-3 with a 26-yard field goal. The field goal capped a 12-play drive that stalled at the 9-yard line.
Park will learn the availability of Domeier next week. Domeier missed practice all this week and had an magnetic resonance imaging of his ankle Friday. Additionally, the Wolfpack learned it lost junior defensive lineman Aaron Gorres for the season after he learned Thursday he fractured two vertebrae.
“It’s a battle of the numbers game right now and it’s hitting us too early,” Glazier said.
Park plays White Bear Lake Friday in Cottage Grove. The Bears are 0-2 with losses to East Ridge and Woodbury, respectively.