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Panthers edged by Eagles

NRHEG quarterback Palmer Peterson looks to pass during Thursday's game against Maple River at NRHEG. - Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

NRHEG quarterback Palmer Peterson looks to pass during Thursday’s game against Maple River at NRHEG. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

NEW RICHLAND — For the Panthers, the result of Thursday’s game was all too familiar.

The Maple River football team edged NRHEG 24-23 Thursday at New Richland. The loss brought the Panthers’ final regular season record to 6-2, both overall and in the South Central Blue District.

Last season, Maple River eliminated NRHEG 21-20 in the first round of the Section 3A playoffs.

Panthers coach Dan Stork cited his team’s uneventful first half as playing a critical part in the loss Thursday.

“We had a really rough first half,” he said. “Turnovers killed us in the first half.”

The Panthers threw one interception and had a punt blocked during the first half of Thursday’s game and couldn’t seem to make anything happen offensively. The Panthers trailed the Eagles 10-0 at halftime.

In the third quarter, the Panthers racked up 14 points to take the lead heading into the fourth quarter with a 15-yard pass from Palmer Peterson to Jason Jongbloedt, and a 12-yard pass from Peterson to John Cole.

According to Stork, NRHEG scored two touchdowns in the fourth, but one was taken off the board due to an illegal procedure call. The recorded touchdown was on another pass from Peterson to Cole, this time for three yards. The Panthers tacked on another two points toward the end of the fourth quarter with a safety.

On paper, NRHEG outperformed Maple River. The Panthers dwarfed the Eagles 180-151 in passing yardage and 41-12 on the ground.

“It’s not too often you hold a team to 163 yards of offense — 125 of which came on two plays — and lose,” Stork said.

NRHEG senior quarterback Peterson completed 15 of 32 passes for 180 yards.

Jongbloedt contributed more receiving yards than he did rushing, with 90 yards on four receptions and 17 yards on nine carries.

Cole caught six passes for 53 yards, while Trai Wicks — also a senior wide receiver — grabbed four passes for 30 yards.

Coming into Thursday’s game, the Eagles were ranked No. 6 in Section 2A in The Associated Press’ state high school football polls. The Panthers received votes that would’ve put them in 12th place, but the rankings only go up to 10.

While the Panthers ended their regular season with an unwanted feeling of déjà vu, they look to erase it in the postseason.

“We made far too many mistakes tonight, which is very concerning at this point in the season,” Stork said. “But I am confident that we will correct those mistakes and make some noise in the playoffs.”

Stork said NRHEG will find out its seeding for the playoffs on Saturday, which will determine where, when and what team the Panthers will play on Wednesday.

About Colleen Harrison

Colleen Harrison is the photo editor at the Albert Lea Tribune. She does photography and writes general-assignment stories.

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