The Perham Yellowjackets are the hottest team in Section 8-3A.
The top-seeded Yellowjackets advanced to the section final by virtue of a 34-12 victory over No. 8 Staples-Motley and a 28-14 win over No. 5 Park Rapids.
Perham (7-3) has won five straight games. Its last loss, however, came against the team they will face at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D.
The second-seeded Pequot Lakes Patriots downed the Yellowjackets 25-14 on Sept. 30 and are arguably playing their best football off the season.
After closing the regular season with a 35-0 loss to Class 2A’s top-Quality Results Formula ranked Hawley and a 28-6 loss to Thief River Falls, Pequot has rattled off a 21-7 win over No. 7 Crookston and a 37-14 win over No. 3 Thief River Falls.
“It’s just a product of the guys believing in themselves, watching more film and dedicating themselves and playing with more heart,” said Pequot Lakes head coach Chip Lohmiller. “Before they thought they could win with just showing up to practice. Now they have dedicated themselves and put some time into this. They’re practicing hard and preparing themselves.”
Pequot’s running game has been the key as the Patriots have rushed for 582 yards in two playoff games and thrown for just 146.
Nolan Michaelson has led the way with 252 yards and a touchdown. Logan Lange has rushed for 240 yards and a score. That’s helped both backs surpass 1,000 yards for the season.
Peter Harrison and Lange have been the top two receiving threats for Pequot Lakes. During the regular season they both caught 12 passes. Harrison has 16 catches for 319 yards and four touchdowns. Lange has 15 catches for 171 yards and seven touchdowns.
Nevin Greer threw for 544 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season and Jordan Redman has gone 6-of-14 for 110 yards and three touchdowns during the playoffs.
“I believe with the speed we have, playing on turf will be to our advantage,” said Lohmiller.
The turf could also help the elusive Jordan Hein. The junior quarterback for the Yellowjackets is the No. 1 concern for Lohmiller and the Patriots.
Another concern is Hein’s older brother, Jesse, who Lohmiller said is a beast in the defensive line.
“Their quarterback is an excellent athlete,” Lohmiller said. “He can scramble and run well. They have him playing from the gun. We need to contain him and try to get him confused and not let him make plays.
“They run the same defense and offense that they’ve run for years. When we’re on offense we’ll need to contain the older Hein. He’s about 290 pounds but he’s very quick and dominating. We’ll have to double-team him.”
Defensively, Pequot is led by Harrison (144 tackles), Jette Ziesmer (86) and Nathan Stonacek (83).
These teams met in the 2009 section final, where Pequot won 48-16 to advance to its first state tournament. Last season, neither team made it back to the final.
This year’s Section 8-3A playoff was seeded using the QRF. Perham owns a 19 QRF and Pequot a 22.
“We just have to eliminate turnovers,” said Lohmiller. “Turnovers have been a big reason between winning and losing. For example, at Thief River, we had too many up there. When we beat them in Pequot they had a couple of turnovers. We need to eliminate mental errors and turnovers.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.