Pirate senior running back Josh Edlund rushed for 158 yards on 14 carries and scored two touchdowns to lead Crookston in a 21-20 win over Pequot Lakes in the first round of the Section 8AAA Playoffs at Cushman Field in Grand Forks.
After three quarters, Crookston, which improved to 4-5 on the season, led 21-8, but two fourth-quarter touchdowns by Pequot Lakes, which had its season end at 2-7, brought them to within an extra point of tying the game. However, with 37 seconds left, the Patriots opted to go for two and the pass was broken up by Pirate senior defensive back Alex Boone to seal the Pirate victory.
"This is a big morale booster," Boone said after the game. "This is the game we needed to win to play Perham. We're excited. We played them tough last time and I think we'll have a good chance at it."
The Pirates, seeded No. 4, will face top-seeded Perham Saturday at 6 p.m. in Perham.
"We'll go in there knowing that if we play hard we'll be fine," Pirate senior quarterback Dylan Klatt said following the win. "We just need to go in there and play hard."
In Pequot Lakes' previous two touchdowns Tuesday it had attempted two-point conversions but it still surprised Pirate Head Coach Scott Butt they went for two at the end.
"I really thought they would kick it and go for the tie and take it to overtime," he said. "One thing they had going for them was momentum so it didn't completely shock me. We got beat on the touchdown play but we turned around and made one heck of a defensive play and got a hand on the ball."
Pequot Lakes junior running back Tyler Tappe was a workhorse, recording 159 yards rushing on 32 carries. He added two receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown catch.
Klatt was 6 of 15 passing for 134 yards and one interception. Boone caught two passes for 45 yards, while senior wide receiver Seth Solheim had two receptions for 39 yards.
The game was scoreless after the first quarter but the Pirates got on the board early in the second quarter with a 29-yard touchdown run by Edlund with 9:41 left in the second quarter. The score was set up with an impressive 30-yard reception near the sidelines by Solheim from Klatt. An extra point by senior Brett Delage gave Crookston a 7-0 lead.
Things got dicey late in the second quarter when Pirate defensive lineman Jacob Sanchez recovered a Patriot fumble at midfield. But on the very next play, however, the Pirates were on their way to a big gain when a fumble put the ball back in the hands of the Patriots.
The Pirate defense stepped up and forced a three and out, though, and Crookston took a 14-0 lead with a Boone five-yard touchdown run with 19 seconds left and a Delage extra point.
As with the first touchdown, Solheim setup the score with a big reception from Klatt. But this time Solheim lateraled the ball to Edlund, streaking on the outside, for a 40-yard pick up.
Pequot Lakes got on the board in the second half with under two minutes left in the third quarter when senior wide receiver Zach Northenscold caught a five-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Jordan Redmond. A two-point conversion was successful with Redmond passing to sophomore wide receiver Connor Davich to make it 14-8 Crookston.
The Pirates answered just 41 seconds later, though, with a run to remember from Edlund, who was nearly hauled down but rolled off the tackle and went 59 yards for a touchdown with 1:04 left in the third quarter. Delage's extra point extended the Crookston lead to 21-8.
"Josh was an inch and a half from being down," noted Coach Butt. "Josh has really, really good balance. His knee was close to being down but he's so strong; he popped right up out of that. You couldn't have asked for that run to come at a better time."
Pequot Lakes also had an answer, though, and a 30-yard touchdown pass from Redmond to Tappe seven seconds into the fourth quarter made it a one-score game at 21-14.
The Pirates went three and out on their next possession and the Patriots went on an impressive drive of about 17 plays that ate up about nine and half minutes of time and finished with a one-yard touchdown run by junior fullback Justin Mackenthun with 37 seconds left to cut the deficit to just one point.
Following a Pequot Lakes timeout, the Patriots opted to go to two points and a pass by Redmond was broken up by Boone.
"We got little bit tired," Coach Butt said of his defense in the second half. "We made some mistakes defensively and had some guys out of position. Pequot Lakes came after us. We're not a big team and they wore on us as the game went along. We just couldn't go when we were supposed to go on blitzes and they created problems for us. Our defense played so well in the first half that you couldn't ask for a defense to play any better. Pequot Lakes made adjustments at halftime but we got tired. We may have started counting our chickens a little bit too early."
Coach Butt had high praise for a number of his players.
"Josh is the ultimate team player," he said of Edlund. "He goes at things so well and so hard. He gets the ball a majority of the time and you couldn't ask for someone to do more than he does. Sometimes we have to remind him he doesn't have to do everything. Josh is selfless and all he wants to do is win. He's not concerned about stats. If you have a son you just hope your son grows up to be like him.
"We got a big game out of Booney," Coach Butt said of Alex Boone. "He's our Kordell Stewart, our slash, who can play quarterback, wide receiver and play running back and do it all well. With the bubble screen we got big chunks of yards on it. He had a key fumble and he looked at me on the sidelines and said, 'won't happen again.' And you know what, 'you're right it won't.' He's a big time player, but not big in stature. You couldn't ask for kid to play any harder.
"Dylan did a great job of managing the game," Butt said of Klatt. "He threw a couple balls that weren't good, but nobody felt worse about those bad throws than him. You're not going to find a kid that cares more. Sometimes we maybe ask him to do too much, but I think the world of the kid and I love being around the kid. He doesn't shy away and owns up to it.
"I thought Jacob Sanchez played really well in the interior defensive line," Butt continued. "Getting Ryan Schear back out on field is huge. He helps us on both sides and having him is big lift for us.
"Aaron Hollcraft is a blocking machine out on the edge," Butt said. "Him and Parker Epema, what they do for us out there and what they do defensively is really needed. It's wonderful to watch those two."
Redmond, who was coming off a bout of mononucleosis that caused him to miss some time, finished the game 6 of 18 passing for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Mackenthun recorded 47 yards rushing on 13 carries. Travis Jacobson had three receptions for 46 yards.
The Pirates will have no major injuries to deal with when they face Perham Saturday.
"It will be a battle. We've watched film and I think we gave them one of their better games of the year," Coach Butt said. "They'll be favorites and we'll need to manipulate them into some defenses. Their QB is a big, strong, physical kid. It will be a test for us no doubt about it."