The Parkers Prairie football team had every intention of making Browerville-Eagle Valley abandon its run game on Friday night, but sometimes talent and execution of an opposing team throws a wrinkle into game plans.
The Tigers (4-1) are the defending Section 4-1A champions, and they played like a team that is capable of winning another title this year in a 61-34 win over the Panthers (1-2) on homecoming. Browerville-Eagle Valley scored rushing touchdowns on its first five possessions of the first half and never looked back.
“That was the key all week is we have to get them throwing the ball, doing something they’re not comfortable with,” Parkers Prairie head coach Mike Johnson said. “They’re just very disciplined offensively, and they executed well. Better than we did. They do a good job with their fakes. They carry them out.”
The Panthers had a start they simply couldn’t recover from.
The Tigers scored on their opening drive on a 1-yard run from Landon Gode. The Panthers then fumbled on their very first play from scrimmage, setting up Browerville-Eagle Valley on the Parkers Prairie 46-yard line.
The Tigers quickly made it hurt with a Carter Meiners 27-yard touchdown run. It was 21-0 by the end of the first quarter when Mason Gode ran one in from 28 yards out. The Tigers added touchdown runs of 70, 1, 40, 15, 30 and 15 yards throughout the night.
“A team like this, when you aren’t disciplined and you overpursue, once they get past that second level, they’re running,” Johnson said. “We weren’t as disciplined as we needed to be. Out of position and alignment, and you can’t do that against a good team like Browerville.”
The Panthers’ offense got it as close as a two-score game at 47-34 with 3:59 left when senior quarterback Brendan Johnson found Jake Wagner on a 54-yard catch and run touchdown.
Parkers Prairie went to the air with Johnson after getting behind big, and he delivered a good game. Johnson had touchdown passes of 11 yards to James Grant and another 1-yarder to Wagner ahead of that 54-yard connection. Johnson accounted for a fourth touchdown when he broke free on an 18-yard run in the fourth quarter. The varsity offense was pulled late in the game to get younger kids experience with the game out of reach.
“Ultimate competitor,” coach Johnson said of his senior quarterback. “I’m sure he wasn’t very happy when I took him out of there because he wanted to fight until the end. That’s exactly what we expected from him, and the offensive line did a great job giving him time. He made some great passes, and we made some great catches.”
Even in a loss, it was a season high in points for the Panthers. Junior Cole Gesell had a kickoff return for a touchdown of nearly 70 yards to help the offense too.
“We were able to move the ball fairly well,” coach Johnson said. “Our game plan this week was to get the ball out in open space to our receivers and run some screens. We did a fairly good job of doing that, but it was too little, too late.”
In many ways, the Panthers are still working the rust off after playing just their third game on Nov. 6. Parkers Prairie activities were shut down for two weeks due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the school forcing grades 9-12 to distance learning. The team didn’t practice during that stretch and did not play a game until Oct. 31 after their Oct. 9 season opener.
“We got back last week and started getting back in the swing of things, but last week (in a 20-14 win over Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa) I thought we made a lot of first-game mistakes again,” coach Johnson said. “This week was homecoming, so there’s a lot of things going on there too. It’s been hard getting in a rhythm. As we continue here, hopefully we’ll fix those things that are early-season mistakes so that by playoff time we’re firing on all cylinders.”
Representatives from Section 4 recently re-voted to allow all eight teams in the field into the section tournament instead of just the top four. That could be important for the Panthers after missing two games and sitting at 1-2 now.
Parkers Prairie has one game left on the regular season schedule at Upsala-Swanville Area (2-3) on Nov. 11 at 6 p.m. The Panthers are hoping to put this loss behind them and end things on a positive note against USA going into the playoffs.
“I give them a lot of credit for fighting through this and staying focused and working as hard as they are,” coach Johnson said. “We have 14 seniors who are helping lead the team, and a lot of the underclassmen are playing for those guys so they can have more opportunities to play. That’s what you want to see as a team.”
BROWERVILLE-EAGLE VALLEY 61, PARKERS PRAIRIE 34
SCORING - FIRST QUARTER - B-EV - Landon Gode 1-yard run; B-EV - Carter Meiners 27-yard run; Brock Hayes conversion run; B-EV - Mason Gode 28-yard run; Trey Lancaster PAT
SECOND QUARTER - Landon Gode 70-yard run; Lancaster PAT; Parkers Prairie - Brendan Johnson 11-yard pass to James Grant; Johnson 2-point conversion pass to Jake Ruckheim; B-EV - Carter Meiners 1-yard run; Parkers Prairie - Johnson 1-yard pass to Jake Wagner
THIRD QUARTER - B-EV - Brock Hayes 40-yard run; Parkers Prairie - Cole Gesell 70-yard kick return
FOURTH QUARTER - B-EV - Cory Meyer 15-yard run; Lancaster PAT; Parkers Prairie - Johnson 18-yard run; Parkers Prairie - Johnson 54-yard pass to Jake Wagner; Johnson 2-point conversion pass to Wagner; B-EV - Marshall Murch 30-yard run; B-EV - Miguel Maloney 15-yard run; Maloney 2-point conversion run