Panthers’ ‘D’ delivers

Published 1:31 pm Saturday, September 5, 2009

Whatever was said in the New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva football team’s locker room Friday night at halftime seemed to work as the Panthers came to life in the second half to rally for a 15-14 win over rival Blooming Prairie in New Richland.

NRHEG trailed 12-7 at halftime in the Highway 30 battle, but on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter Danny Wagner broke loose for a 64-yard run that brought the Panthers down to the 5-yard line. On first-and-goal Wagner, who had just seven yards in the first half, cashed in to make it a 13-12 game.

“It looked like it was stuffed to begin, but he kept his feet pounding and took off out of there,” said Panthers head coach Dan Stork.

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NRHEG decided to go for two to grab a three-point lead and a pass from quarterback Taylor Bolinger to 6-foot-4 wide out Tyler Firme made it a 15-12 game. What seemed like a mundane decision to go for two, turned out to be important later in the game.

Bolinger finished 5-for-9 for 159 yards and one touchdown in his first start at quarterback. Wagner finished with 83 yards rushing.

The Panther defense, which had been scorched in the first half by the Blossoms to the tune of 174 yards passing, settled in and held Blooming Prairie scoreless in the second half, except for a safety.

A terrific punt by Aaron Niles pinned NRHEG down at its own 2-yard line with 5 minutes, 30 seconds left in the game. On the first play the Panthers gave the ball to Geoff Ramaker, who fumbled the ball and the Blossoms recovered, but a whistle had blown prior to the fumble and it resulted in a replay of first down. Three plays later the Blooming Prairie defense sacked Bolinger in the end zone for a safety. It was a good thing Stork decided to go for two in the third quarter.

“We were thinking that wasn’t too bad actually,” Stork said of the safety. “We didn’t want to have to punt out of our end zone and get a block and give up a touchdown instead of a two-pointer. Going for two there ended up being pretty important.”
It wasn’t the way Stork would normally like to win, but he said he’ll take them any way they come.
“They had our backs against the wall a few times,” said NRHEG senior running back Danny Wagner. “We just kept fighting and fighting and eventually it paid off in the end.”
The Awesome Blossom had 174 yards passing at halftime as Toquam, the third-string quarterback who was forced into action because of injuries, found Gabe Kartes open for big plays, including a 44-yard reception and a 52-yard reception to set up the two scoring drives in the first quarter that gave Blooming Prairie a 12-0 lead. Jeff Hagstrom scored from 2 yards out and Kartes had a 13-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.
“We got a good talking to in the locker room and we pulled our heads out of our butts,” said NRHEG linebacker David Lindell, who recorded 17 tackles. “Blooming is always a good team. We kind of expected them to be good and knew their offense would be explosive.”
The Panthers climbed back into the game on the first play of the second quarter when Taylor Bolinger found a wide-open Tyler Firme for a 79-yard touchdown that made the game 12-7 after a Lindell extra point.
The Blossoms threatened twice more in the second quarter, but Tyler Crabtree sacked Toquam on a third-and- four and Blooming Prairie had three incomplete passes from the NRHEG 15-yard line with time expiring in the half. Once again Crabtree sacked Toquam to end the half.
“I think everyone was a little wide-eyed when they started the game,” Stork said. “A couple of those long passes we were in position, we just didn’t make a play on the ball.”
Blooming Prairie was held to five first downs in the second half and Toquam didn’t find many options down the field like the first half.
“We’ve got a lot of room to improve, we know that,” Stork said.

NRHEG 15, Blooming Prairie 14

BP 12 0 0 2 — 14
NRHEG 0 7 8 0 — 15

First Quarter
BP — Hagstrom 2 run (Niles kick failed), 9:56.
BP — Kartes 13 pass from Toquam (Toquam run failed), :16.

Second Quarter
NRHEG — Firme 79 pass from Bolinger (Lindell kick), 11:46.

Third Quarter
NRHEG — Wagner 5 run (Firme pass from Bolinger), 11:18.

Fourth Quarter
BP — Nelson safety, 4:08.

First downs 12 6
Total net yards 248 277
Rushes-yards 41-57 34-118
Passing 191 159
Punt Returns 1-11 3-35
Kickoff Returns 3-100 2-31
Interceptions Ret. 1-4 0-0
Comp-Att-Int 13-25-0 5-10-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 9-NA 0-0
Punts 7-26.1 6-31.7
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 4-25 2-10
Time of Possession NA NA

RUSHING — Blooming Prairie, Ingvaldson 9-59, Niles 16-56, Kartes 3-9, Hagstrom 2-0, Toquam 11-(minus 67). NRHEG, Wagner 16-83, Lindell 5-21, Ramaker 7-18, Bolinger 6-(minus 4).
PASSING — Blooming Prairie, Toquam 13-25-0-191. NRHEG, Bolinger 5-9-1-159. Wagner 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — Blooming Prairie, Kartes 5-105, Ingvaldson 3-45, Niles 3-16, Nelson 2-25. NRHEG, Firme 3-124, Hagen 1-32, Wagner 1-3.