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Yellowjackets and Patriots vie for Section title on Thursday

Logan Richter, Martin LaFond and others corral Nathan Traut during their early season contest. The Yellowjackets hope to do the same when they take on Pequot Lakes for the Section 8AAA Championship at the Fargodome on Thursday at 8 p.m. Jason Groth/FOCUS

The last time Perham and Pequot Lakes met on the gridiron, the weather played a key factor in the game. The game started on a Friday and ended on a Monday as it was suspended due to multiple storms and lightning delays.

The weather won’t have a factor in Thursday’s meeting when the two teams reunite for the Section 8AAA Championship at the Fargodome in North Dakota. The Yellowjackets one the first meeting, using a 14 point fourth quarter, erasing a 19-18 deficit and turning it into a 32-19 victory over the Patriots.

The Patriots have not lost since that game and have allowed double digits in scoring just once during their six game winning streak. The Yellowjackets went from a ground attack to an aerial assault, rewriting the Perham record books in the process. Both teams come in with identical 7-2 records. Perham suffered defeats to Fergus Falls and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, while the Patriots were defeated by the Yellowjackets and Fergus Falls.

It will be Perham’s first section title game since the 2012 season. They went to the Class AAA state semifinals that year. It’s a familiar game for the Patriots. They have lost the last three years to DGF in the finals.

Perham head coach Kyle Knutson expects to see a balanced offensive attack lead by Nathan Traut in the backfield. Traut rushed for 908 yards on the season and 10 touchdowns. In their nine games, Traut was held under 100 yards once and that was against the Yellowjackets. He rushed for 88 yards on 12 carries in their previous meeting.

Blake Lane has led the passing attack for the Patriots. He has passed for 837 yards with seven touchdowns. However, he has thrown six interceptions. He missed the two final regular season games, but returned to complete 10 of his 14 passes in the Patriots thrashing of Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton. Lane has spread the ball around to multiple receivers with Austin Young being the go-to guy. Young has 22 receptions for 453 yards and four touchdowns. Maxx Schindel has hauled in 12 passes for 162 yards, while Traut has 11 receptions for 203 yards.

Knutson said they will need to contain Traut on defense, while playing tough against the pass in the section title game. He believes the turf will be an advantage for both teams because they both are quick teams.

“They are a tough team and we made some mistakes against them that we hope to have cleaned up for the second meeting,” Knutson said on his takeaways from the first contest.

In the first meeting, the Yellowjackets showed balance on offense, rushing for 177 yards, while passing for 186. Ty Moser ran for 108 yards on 17 carries, while Jenson Beachy passed for 186 yards and three touchdowns. Martin LaFond, Dawson Honer and Moser had touchdown receptions in the win. LaFond sealed the game on a field goal fake late in the fourth with his touchdown reception.

The Yellowjackets have shown the ability to run the ball in the past but have went to the aerial attack of late. The Yellowjackets have passed for 2,284 yards as a team. Beachy has thrown for 2,167 yards and 22 touchdowns. The Yellowjackets have rushed for 1,549 yards as a team, but have spread the ball around. Martin LaFond leads the team on the ground with 357 yards rushing, while Moser has 328 yards. Zach Peterson has rushed for 298 yards, while Beachy has 247 yards of his own. A lot of the success on the offense has come from the play of the offensive line. They have given Beachy time to look over the field, while opening up holes for the ground game.

The lines on both sides of the ball will play a big role in the outcome of the game. Peterson leads the Yellowjackets in total tackles with 73. Jace Kovash has 49 while Ty Moser has 45. Logan Richter has been a force inside, dictating where teams elect to run the football. He has 32 total tackles, but leads the team with 12 tackles for a loss. The Yellowjackets have recorded 13 sacks during the season with Dawson Kellogg leading the way with three. Peterson and Moser have two each.

Jason Groth

 Groth is a Minnesota Newspaper Association award-winning Sports Editor of the Perham Focus and the Wadena Pioneer Journal. Groth worked in Grand Rapids as the Sports Director at KOZY/KMFY radio for two years and prior to that he was the Sports Editor/Writer for the Grand Rapids Herald-Review for seven years. 

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