STAPLES -- Through the first three weeks of the football season, much has been made of the Staples-Motley Cardinals' offense.
When they're not running the ball down an opponent's throat, senior quarterback Adam Johnson is tossing touchdown passes to his speedy receivers.
But Friday against Park Rapids, the Cardinals' defense overshadowed the offense as S-M went on to hang a 52-6 thrashing on the Panthers.
"Our defense played phenomenal," S-M coach Ryan Beachy said. "We have some really good athletes on defense that are hard to block. We also had really good gap control. As long as everyone does their job we'll do well."
With as many points as the S-M offense scored, much of it was due to the play of the defense, which consistently gave the offense a short field to work with.
The Cardinal defense held the Panthers to 87 yards of total offense, with 65 of those yards coming on a touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter. Park Rapids was also held to only one first down while turning the ball over four times (three interceptions, one fumble).
Linebacker Paul Williams collected one of those interceptions. He also hauled in a 24-yard touchdown pass from Johnson on S-M's first play in the third quarter.
"The defense just does what it has to do to get the job done," said Williams. "We just keyed on the other teams' offensive players and worked together as a unit."
Staples-Motleys Jake Wagner (33) rushed up field against Park Rapids defender Aaron Peterson (20) with help from his teammate Corey Nundahl (62). (Dispatch Photo by Steve Kohls)
The Cardinals' four touchdown drives in the first half started on Park Rapids' 43-, 25-, 6- and 14-yard lines thanks to a defense that spent much of its time in the Panthers' backfield.
"When you get that short field you can do whatever you want offensively," said Beachy. "The offensive line did a good job as well. They really controlled the line of scrimmage."
Johnson opened the game with a 33-yard strike to Zach Martin and found the end zone twice on short runs. David Frisk added the other touchdown in the half on a 6-yard scamper.
Of S-M's 264 total offensive yards, 207 of it came on the ground. Beau Pilgrim led the team with 63 yards on four carries and one touchdown. Andy Mertens was close behind with 52 yards on nine carries.
Park Rapids 0 0 0 6 -- 6
Staples-Motley 14 12 12 14 -- 52
SM -- Zach Martin 33 pass from Adam Johnson (Johnson kick) 8:13
SM -- Johnson 1 run (Johnson kick) 3:56
SM -- David Frisk 6 run (kick failed) 8:56
SM -- Johnson 5 run (kick failed) 5:21
SM -- Paul Williams 24 pass from Johnson (kick failed) 9:15
SM -- Joe Smith 6 run (kick failed) 4:42
SM -- Beau Pilgrim 26 run (Justin Richards run) 7:21
PR -- Mac McDowell 65 run (run failed) 7:09
SM -- Richards 16 run (run failed) 4:13
Rushes-yards -- SM 40-207, PR 39-85
Pass comp-att-int-yards -- SM 2-9-57, PR 1-9-3-2
Total offense -- SM 264, PR 87
Rushing -- SM-David Frisk 2-8, Andy Mertens 9-52, Jake Wagner 8-35, Adam Johnson 5-6, Beau Pilgrim 4-63, Joe Weshalla 4-15, Joe Smith 3-20, Zak Johnson 5-8; PR Mac McDowell 11-62.
Passing -- SM-A. Johnson 2-9-57; PR-Ryan Miller 1-9-2-2
Receiving -- SM-Paul Williams 1-24, Zach Martin 1-33; PR-Kevin Bower 1-2.
Conference -- SM 2-0. Overall -- SM 3-0. Next game -- SM at Crookston 7 p.m. Friday.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.