PILLAGER -- The Pillager Huskies have a three-peat on their minds.
The two-time defending Section 6, Class 1A football champions will face a new opponent this 3 p.m. Friday when they tackle the top-seeded Parkers Prairie Panthers in the final at the Fargodome.
The last two years, the second-seeded Huskies (6-3 overall) have knocked off Bertha-Hewitt on their way to the state tournament. This year it's the Panthers' turn to try and supplant the Huskies.
Parkers Prairie (6-3) beat Bertha-Hewitt 27-12 in the section semifinals. Pillager knocked off third-seeded Browerville 16-6 to set up Friday's contest.
The Panthers beat the Huskies 37-12 in the regular season. The game was sandwiched between losses to Ottertail Central and Menahga. Other than the three-game span, Pillager disposed of its opponents with ease in the regular season.
"We've definitely improved since the last time we played Parkers," said Pillager head coach Dan Boushee. "The biggest thing is the nights that we've struggled it's been turnovers and penalties.
"We've moved the ball all season long, but we get into the penalties and turnovers. The last three weeks we've held on to the ball and things are starting to come together."
In nine games, Pillager is averaging 19.7 points. Senior halfback Tony Mason has been on a tear. He rushed for 275 yards and two touchdowns on 38 carries against Browerville. In the final game of the regular season, he rushed for 161 yards and four scores on 24 carries in a 39-7 victory over New York Mills.
Mason has 1,479 yards and 11 touchdowns on 237 carries this season.
"We opened some things up against Browerville, offensively," said Boushee. "Lately, however, we have had success running and riding Tony and our offensive line. They've been doing a great job.
"We're not going to have Tony carry the ball 38 times every game. We want to spread the ball and make sure Thomas Buckingham gets some more carries."
Pillager's defense is holding opponents to 14.4 points. Bertha-Hewitt (36), OTC (30) Parkers Prairie and Menahga (12) were the only teams to score more than one touchdown against the Huskies.
Eric Fornshell leads the Huskies with 81 tackles followed by Mark Gaalswyk, Mason and Jason Borgstrom with 69. Tony Szczodroski and Borgstrom lead the team with five quarterback sacks and Jason Eastman has three fumble recoveries.
"They have done a super job all year," Boushee said of the Huskies' defense. "The Parkers game wasn't our best outing. Defense has been our strength all year. (Scott) Doss (defensive coordinator) has done an excellent job getting them prepared.
"We just have some kids that are making some plays. In recent weeks the kids have played disciplined football. They believe in what we're coaching and they believe in themselves."
Boushee said the Panthers run a double-wing offense and like to spread the ball. Parkers employs quality big backs with speed runners on the outside.
"What hurt us against them was we gave up some big third- and fourth-down pass plays," Boushee said. "That, and our six turnovers. That gave them great field position."
Pillager wants to control the line of scrimmage and limit Parkers' big plays on third down.
With the experience of both Pillager lines that could happen. This is the third section final for Mark Gaalswyk, Fornshell, Szczodroski, Ben Broberg, Bryan Rhett, Nate Ackerson and Borgstrom.
Labeled the "Fat Boys" during Pillager's first section championship, the line has helped the Huskies rush for 2,174 yards and a 5.3 average per carry.
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