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Posted by Guest (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/8/2012 10:20:27 PM

By Brian Jerzak
John’s Journal correspondent

The last two years have been rough for the Park of Cottage Grove football program. The Wolfpack ran out onto the field 20 straight times with the hope of running off the field with a victory; 20 straight times they did not come out as the victors.

The Wolfpack lost their final regular-season game and an opening-round playoff game at the end of the 2009 season. They followed that with two straight 0-9 seasons. Coming into this season, the seniors had not tasted a varsity win. That all changed in Week One when Park walked off its home field as 47-12 winners over Forest Lake. Wolfpack players and fans again had a chance to believe.

The split in the South Washington County School system that occurred when East Ridge High School was formed in 2009 caused some hard times for the Park football program. But with that change now fading into history, the Wolfpack believe better times are ahead. With that renewed belief, the stands were full on Friday when the Wolfpack welcomed Suburban East rival Roseville to town in Week Two.

“We have a full team of believers right now,” said coach Darin Glazier. “The kids that are here have bought into (what the coaches are teaching) and they believe.”

There hadn’t been much to believe in for the seniors who have been through two years of losses, but those who stuck it out were rewarded in Week One.

“That group of seniors that came back, along with the juniors, believe that we can have success,” said Glazier. “That is a big part of it. Football is such a mental game. We could compete for one quarter or two quarters last year, but once something went wrong they wouldn’t believe anymore. To get that victory was just great for these kids. I think we will carry that through. We know we are going to have rough times, too, but we need to keep in mind that we need to be patient and we can’t lose confidence in each other.”

Park had a rough time in game two. Thanks to a 69-yard pass from Roseville junior quarterback Jacques Perra to senior Logan Brown on the game’s first play and an 11-yard touchdown run by junior Sebastian Yang, the Raiders were quickly ahead 7-0. Unlike in seasons past however, the Wolfpack fought back. Despite a quick turnover, the defense held the Raiders and gave the ball right back to the offense. Behind the running of senior Dylan Smallidge, Park cut the deficit to 7-6.

Park would get no closer the rest of the game. Roseville’s balanced rushing attack and the short passing game orchestrated by Perra kept the Wolfpack defense off balance all night. The Raiders operated out of a spread formation. Through the air, Roseville used a number of slants and quick outs; on the ground the Raiders found running room on the perimeter of the Wolfpack defense.

Perra would find senior Jabari Prim for a score early in the second quarter. On their next possession, he continued to hook up with Brown and Yang. Perra finished off the team’s third touchdown drive of the first half by hitting senior Baron Taylor. Perra showed an accurate arm all night and showed nice footwork in the pocket to avoid the Park rush.

“Last game (a 13-10 loss to White Bear Lake) we got close and didn’t execute in the red zone,” said Perra. “This game we focused on red zone play and just getting it into the end zone. We were just trying to work on the short game and getting the protection better. Then our guys could get one on one with the corners and break some tackles.”

Coming off the Week One loss, the Raiders beat Park 49-26.

“Our line stepped up and gave me a few more seconds in the pocket,” Perra said. “The running game I think was a lot better in this game.”

Although the Raiders’ lead grew, the Wolfpack fans’ enthusiasm didn’t wane. That was something Glazier began to see during the first week of school.

“We have been working on the whole school spirit part of things. Instead of these kids walking through the hallways and having people poke fun at them, the school spirit is there. We had a great crowd there Thursday night and a lot of it was just these kids’ classmates cheering them on.”

Roseville junior Matthew Peckham essentially put the game away by scoring the Raiders’ fourth touchdown of the first half on a 37-yard draw play. Spirit was high in the stands at halftime even though the home team was down 28-12.

“We have hope this year for our team to win, so that is really exciting. More people showed up to the game,” said Park senior cheerleader Kamaria Boykin. “More people participated in our white-out tonight, which is awesome. The students are just participating in more events now, which is really cool.”

Boykin knows that even with the team’s struggles in Week Two, as the players get more confidence their fans will do the same.
“If our players start thinking they can win, then our fans will feed off of what our players think,” said Boykin. “That is really cool to see our fans excited to come to a Park football game.”

Despite the continued support of the fans, Roseville continued to pour it on in the second half. They took advantages of Wolfpack mistakes and continued to run their offense with pinpoint efficiency. Perra and the perimeter running game continued to be the story until both teams subbed down in the fourth quarter. The final result spoiled for at least one week the good feelings generated by the Wolfpack’s opening win.

Although Park struggled with penalties and on special teams Friday night, it was easy to see this team has a chance to build on its 1-1 start (their Week Three opponent is Woodbury). Glazier knows there is a ways to go, but with the continued support of the community and parents they will move the program forward. There is reason again to believe.



 


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