A common thought about any postseason is that it’s a new season. That’s the approach the Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg football team took on Tuesday night when it traveled to Parkers Prairie for the first round of the Section 4A playoffs.
The fourth-seeded Panthers fell to the fifth-seeded Fighting Saints (5-4) 24-0 to end their season.
“We didn’t play our best game, and KMS played strong,” head coach Mike Johnson said. “We made too many mistakes to beat a team like KMS. I can’t be more proud of how these kids grew and developed throughout the season. We had a lot of younger kids that had to step up when injuries hit. It’s a tough way to end it, but that’s high school sports for you.”
Two of the most significant injuries that plagued the Panthers were at quarterback and on both the offensive and defensive lines. Junior Brendan Johnson and senior captain Josh Helling did not dress in the final game of the season.
“When you’re missing your starting quarterback and one of your best linemen out there, it makes a big difference,” Johnson said. “You miss guys like that on the field. I thought the guys that filled their spots did a great job, but that leadership that those kids bring is tough to replace.”
After a scoreless first quarter, KMS found the end zone when quarterback Alex Call ran in the 10-yard score. On their next drive, the Fighting Saints scored again when Call threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to his brother, Isaac, in double coverage.
“I trust him to make a play when I throw the ball up to him,” Alex Call said. “We’ve done that since we were little kids. We were playing with the wind in the second quarter, and the coaches called more passing plays. That one felt good. I saw him bobbling it, but I knew he would make that catch.”
Parkers Prairie responded with a 37-yard kick return by Jesse LaManna to midfield. A 26-yard screen pass from Jake Wagner to Zach Olson put the Panthers just outside the red zone, but a sack on third down killed the drive as KMS got the ball back on downs.
“They brought a lot of pressure on our offense all night,” Johnson said. “They were able to take away our run game, and we couldn’t get a lot going through the air. They didn’t give our quarterback a lot of time to get rid of the ball. We couldn’t find a way to get over that.”
With under a minute to go in the half, Masyn Olson’s seven-yard touchdown run put KMS up 18-0.
“We had been waiting for a game like this all season,” Call said. “We knew we could play like this. This was our best game of the year, and I think it’s given us a lot of confidence.”
Parkers Prairie struggled to put together a drive in the second half. Two interceptions added to the four turnovers in the game as KMS went on to win 24-0.
“The end of the season is the toughest part of the year,” Johnson said. “This is one of the worst feelings to go through for these kids. We have 16 seniors graduating, and they’ve done a lot to show these young kids what it takes to be a successful football player. I expect them to use this in the offseason as fuel to get them ready for next year.”
Johnson’s first year as head coach ended with a 5-4 record. Not only was this year a growing experience for the underclassmen, but also the young coach.
“I saw every game and practice as an opportunity to learn,” Johnson said. “I learned a lot this season. It’s not just about football, but how to manage things and deal with injuries. Our coaches did an outstanding job supporting the guys and me throughout the season. Hopefully, we can all continue to learn and make a run next year.”
KMS 0 18 6 0 - 24
PARKERS PRAIRIE 0 0 0 0 - 0
SCORING- SECOND QUARTER- KMS- Alex Call 10-yard TD run (PAT no good) 8:24; KMS- Alex Call 36-yard TD pass to Isaac Call (Two-point conversion no good) 6:35; KMS- Masyn Olson 7-yard TD run (Two-point conversion no good) 0:38;
THIRD QUARTER- KMS- Chase Magaard 10-yard TD run (Two-point conversion no good) 1:05