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Park football: Arlington, Wolfpack stun Bears

Park senior Elias Arlington celebrates a touchdown against White Bear Lake. The Wolfpack upset the Bears on Friday.

For a team that has dealt with so much bad news, the Park football team finally had reason to celebrate.

The Wolfpack snapped a 10-game losing streak that began in the second week of last season with an emphatic 33-27 victory over White Bear Lake Friday in Cottage Grove. The win meant much more than the score for the players, many of whom had won just one game in their varsity career prior to Friday night.

“This is what high school sports is supposed to be about,” Park head coach Darin Glazier said. “It’s about getting some wins every once and while. We need to get to the point that that’s happening for this program and this community because they deserve it.”

Faced with the news that the team lost senior starting quarterback Sam Domeier to an ankle injury for the season after losing junior defensive lineman Aaron Gorres, the timing of the victory couldn’t have been better.

Senior wide receiver/running back Elias Arlington put together a breakout game with three touchdowns, 75 yards rushing, 50 yards receiving and a 71-yard kick return to start the second half, which ignited the Wolfpack in the third quarter for 27 points to take a commanding 33-13 lead after trailing 13-6 at halftime.

Arlington, who is good friends with Domeier off the field, can relate to what it’s like watching from the sidelines like Domeier did Friday night. Arlington has missed the past two seasons due to academic issues stemming from a concussion injury he suffered as a freshman.

“It’s emotional, probably one of the most emotional things I’ve been through in recent years,” Arlington said. “I did it for my teammates.”

White Bear Lake (0-3, 0-3 SEC) took a 13-6 lead with 32 seconds left in the first half after Park (1-2, 1-2 SEC) muffed a punt and the Bears recovered at the Wolfpack 3-yard line. One play later quarterback Trey Anderson scored from 3 yards out, which left Park in a similar position as last week after it squandered a lead against Mounds View and let the game slip away in the final two minutes of the first half.

But Arlington helped changed everything with a momentum-shifting 71-yard kick return to start the second half. The return gave the Wolfpack the ball at White Bear Lake’s 22-yard line and five plays later Arlington scored the first of three touchdowns in the quarter to tie the game.

“It always hurt not being able to see one of the best athletes in the school not be able to help your football team,” Glazier said. “This is what he worked his tail off for. It is kind of fitting that Elias takes it upon himself to help us through a pretty big third quarter.”

Park’s defense sparked as well in the third quarter by keeping the Bears scoreless in the quarter and intercepting a pass, which led to another Arlington touchdown. The Wolfpack forced five turnovers – three interceptions and two fumbles – for the game while getting 10 stops, including a three-and-out after tying the game. Senior safety Kyle McDonough recovered a fumble to set up Park’s first touchdown of the game and also intercepted a pass while senior linebacker Anthony Valladares led the team with 15 tackles. Senior Justin Liljedahl and sophomore defensive back Michael Griffin each had nine tackles. The Wolfpack defense also had three sacks for the game.

Park took a 20-13 lead on a 1-yard run by Hunter Burbank and added to it after the defense forced another three-and-out to give the Wolfpack the ball at White Bear Lake’s 47-yard line. Six plays later Arlington scored from nine yards out to make it 27-13.

The defense continued to rise to the occasion when Ryan Klika intercepted his second pass of the game to give Park the ball at the Bears 30-yard line. Freshman quarterback Brandon Alt, who finished 12 of 26 passing for 148 yards, found Arlington for a 28-yard pass to bring the ball to the 7-yard line and Arlington rushed in for a touchdown on the following play.

The Wolfpack had struggled finishing drives in the red zone in their previous two games, but introduced a new offensive formation that featured Arlington in the backfield receiving direct snaps and rushing.

“We kind of had this game earmarked as the game where we might unleash it,” Glazier said. “With the struggles we’ve been showing in the red zone it was the opportune time. The kids were excited about it. It’s given them something to look forward to. To see it go in and work the way it did, you couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Junior running back Brandyn Tulloch rushed for 63 yards on 11 carries while senior wide receiver Anthony Juba caught two passes for 26 yards. Junior wide receiver Jeb Melson had two catches for 20 yards and drew a pass interference penalty that step up Burbank’s touchdown.

After playing competitively for stretches in the two previous games Park finally put together a complete game.

“It’s a big puzzle and it’s finally coming together,” senior linebacker Kahlen Boich said. “We’re finding all the missing pieces.”

The Wolfpack face district rival East Ridge Friday at East Ridge High School in Woodbury.

- Nick Gerhardt