East Grand Forks uses second-half comeback to knock off Park Rapids in snowy end to regular season
If East Grand Forks Senior High's senior class played its last game on its home field Wednesday evening, the Green Wave made the finale a memorable one.
In snowy, windy conditions, the Green Wave used the running combination of quarterback Sam Votava and running back Carter Vasek to erase a nine-point, second-half deficit and beat Park Rapids 33-29.
"In all reality, that could be the last time the seniors play on that field," East Grand Forks coach Ryan Kasowski said. "We went back out there after the game and had a moment together. Tonight was special, with the snow coming down, and the team found a way to win that game."
The Green Wave improved to 2-3. The section playoffs will start Tuesday, with the top seeds playing at home. The section coaches will vote on the seeding but a likely scenario has East Grand Forks traveling to Fergus Falls in the playoff opener.
"The atmosphere was awesome," said Vasek, a junior. "The snow was coming down, but it didn't feel cold. It just felt amazing to be out there for the seniors."
Park Rapids took a 21-12 lead in the first four minutes of the second half. On fourth-and-9 from the 23, Panthers freshman quarterback Noah Morris hit James Hartig on his second of three touchdown passes for a nine-point lead.
East Grand Forks countered with a touchdown on its next drive. A Votava pass to Jeremiah Haavig for 30 yards set up a Votava 25-yard keeper to cut the Park Rapids lead to 21-19 with 6:30 left in the third quarter.
Momentum swung heavy to the Green Wave from there. East Grand Forks took the lead with 6:30 left in the fourth quarter when Votava scored from 22 yards out on another keeper.
On the scoring play, Votava started up the middle but then found room around the outside. He stiff-armed two defenders and then dove head-first across the goal line to push the Wave ahead 27-21.
East Grand Forks tacked on to the lead on its next possession when Vasek carried three consecutive times. The first went for 19 yards, then 5 yards and then finally a 41-yard scamper to the end zone for a 33-21 advantage with 4:11 to go.
"I think we tried to stretch it out as much as we could ... we felt if we could get the edge we could be successful," Kasowski said. "Carter did a great job reading it and the offensive line did a nice job getting all the way out there on those plays."
But the Panthers proved pesky. The passing of Morris to a group of tall wide receivers had Park Rapids on the move. On third-and-3 from the 12, Morris found Hartig for his third touchdown catch. The Panthers were able to score on the 2-point conversion to pull within 33-29 with 1:26 left.
The Green Wave, though, recovered the onside kick. East Grand Forks survived a scary fumble on its first play after the onside kick and punted the ball -- no easy task in the conditions -- back to Park Rapids -- now without timeouts -- with 54 seconds left in the game.
Park Rapids wasn't able to get a first down on its last drive. Morris was sacked by Tanner Nowacki on third down and threw incomplete to end the game on fourth down.
Vasek finished with 11 carries for 137 yards. Votava threw for 131 yards and ran for 47.
"It was all the line; I was just doing my job and reading the play," Vasek said.
Park Rapids was led by Morris, who had 181 yards passing. Nick Michaelson threw a 71-yard touchdown pass to Hartig on a wide receiver-reverse pass in the second quarter.
Hartig ended with four catches for 108 yards. Michaelson, a 6-foot-6, 195-pound junior target, had five catches for 92 yards.
"It's always like that when we play Park Rapids," Kasowski said. "It's two teams that are pretty similar and have lots of respect for each other. I was proud of our kids. When they scored there, your team can go either way. We kept fighting and our defense got enough stops."
EGF Senior High 33, Park Rapids 29
EGF -- Tanner Campos 55 pass from Sam Votava (kick failed)
PR -- Noah Michaelson 49 pass from Noah Morris (kick failed)
EGF -- Carter Vasek 39 run (kick failed)
PR -- James Hartig 71 pass from Michaelson (Sam Reish pass from Morris)
PR -- Hartig 23 pass from Morris (Tate Usher kick)
EGF -- Votava 25 run (Justin Overgaard kick)
EGF -- Votava 22 run (Cole Gerber pass from Votava)
EGF -- Vasek 41 run (kick failed)
PR -- Hartig 12 pass from Morris (Logan Jackson pass from Morris)
RUSHING -- EGF: Carter Vasek 11-137, Sam Votava 7-47; PR: Caleb David 10-34
PASSING -- EGF: Votava 8-14-0, 131 yards; PR: Noah Morris 12-26-2, 181 yards, Nick Michaelson 1-2-0, 71 yards
RECEIVING -- EGF: Tanner Campos 1-55, Jeremiah Haavig 2-43, Brody Schultz 2-16, Cole Gerber 2-12; PR: James Hartig 4-108, Michaelson 5-92