In the history of Pequot Lakes Patriots and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Wolves football, one game pops out above the rest.
On Nov. 1, 2000, at the Fargodome, Pequot held a 26-12 third-quarter lead before the Wolves stormed back, scoring 22 unanswered points to win the Section 8, Class 2A championship, 34-26.
Since then Pequot has rattled off two straight victories over its North Star Conference rival. Last year the Patriots beat W-H-A at Walker 22-19 on a last-second field goal. In 2001, the Patriots blanked the Wolves 21-0.
"The four years that I've been here, it's a real big rivalry," said Pequot head coach Tony Maurer. "In 2000 we beat them in the regular season 38-0 and they came back to beat us in the section championship game. They weren't scared about playing us and there wasn't a letdown from them.
"The games have been good battles and they bring a tough defense every time we play them."
The matchup at Pequot will find the Patriots celebrating homecoming. At 2-1 in the conference, 3-1 overall, Pequot needs help to get back into conference championship contention.
First, the Patriots need to beat the Wolves, who at 3-0 in conference play are tied with Lake of the Woods for the lead.
"This game could be pinned as a possible conference championship," said Maurer. "From what our scouts tell us, Walker can beat Lake of the Woods.
"We're not in control of our own destiny. We can only control what we do against our opponents. We want a conference championship. We've never had one here at Pequot."
Last Friday the Wolves racked up 217 yards rushing against Pine River-Backus on their way to a 42-19 victory. The Wolves amassed 313 yards of total offense.
"We still run a lot of wishbone in different sets, but we're still mainly an option team," said W-H-A coach Pete Naugle. "We've had to incorporate a little more of the passing game, but we're pretty much an option team."
After a 20-13 season-opening loss to Agassiz Valley the Wolves have beaten conference opponents Cass Lake-Bena, Bagley and PR-B by a combined 103-37.
"I would say we're pleasantly surprised," Naugle said about being tied for the conference lead. "As we go, teams are getting better. It's that simple. In our conference it's tough to gauge.
"Pequot is a tough competitor and we have a great rivalry with them. You can never overlook anyone or be overconfident. Confidence is one thing, but we've had such a great rivalry with them you have to be prepared."
One thing W-H-A must prepare for is the Patriots' double attack of James Baumann running and Chris Clasen throwing.
"They have several key weapons," said Naugle. "Baumann, Clasen and (Mike) Wiebolt, those three seem to be pretty potent and with Clasen throwing the ball it sounds like he's a pretty accurate thrower."
While most teams have attempted to stop Baumann, who's gained 521 rushing yards, Clasen has been on fire.
In Pequot's 39-19 pounding of Clearbrook-Gonvick, Baumann scored four times on 14 carries. However, it was Clasen throwing for a school-record 317 yards on 18-of-25 passing that spurred the offensive onslaught.
"What's happening is our offensive line is getting better and giving Chris a lot of time to make good decisions and find the open receivers," said Maurer. "Obviously, they're making holes for James, but, we run dropbacks, rollouts and a lot of play action and it's hard to stop."
Pequot has outscored its last two opponents 88-32. But Maurer knows W-H-A won't roll over. The Wolves also haven't won a championship in more than 13 years.
"Walker makes you play assignment defense," said Maurer. "They still run their option but they throw it a lot more. We have to have everybody in their zone and playing their man. We need to play with tenacity and get everybody to the football and make sure we're hitting people."
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