After wild finish, Park wins season opener over Glendive

Monday, August 27, 2018

Yellowstone Newspapers photo by Jamie Ausk Crisafulli

Park High receiver Jack Waddell (5) runs down field after hauling in a catch during Friday’s game versus Glendive, in Glendive.

Park High football was up 35-34 late in the fourth quarter. The defense picked off its fifth interception of the game and the Rangers took over on their own seven yard line with 13 seconds left. After kneeling on first down and Glendive took its last timeout, things got a little more interesting.

Needing to just kneel down one more time to clinch the win, Park muffed the snap and the ball was loose. Glendive recovered on the five yard line with nine seconds left in the game down one point. Glendive hadn’t shown faith in its kicking game all night, so the offense lined up for one last play. Glendive, riding its offensive line as it did most of the night, tried to run it in. But Park’s Danner Purkett played the role of hero, making the tackle at the three yard line. Out of timeouts, Glendive had to watch the seconds tick away as Park celebrated its season-opening win, the program’s first since 2012.

“It was definitely a rollercoaster, man,” said Park head coach Jon Willyerd.

Willyerd added that the new attitude of this year’s team, which came to fruition from a successful offseason, was what made the difference in the win.

“Last year, we kind of had that attitude that if a team scored on us, you would see our heads kind of go down,” he said. “Every time they’d score, our guys would be, ‘alright, let’s go score’ instead of ‘oh no, we’re in trouble.’ So I think there’s been a paradigm shift as far as our kids confidence and knowing we can put the ball in the end zone … After that (turnover) the kids would have been emotionally crushed (last year). Instead, they just went, ‘OK, let’s get a stop.’”

The Ranger offense was on full display against Glendive. Starting quarterback John Waddell went 22-for-37 for 324 yards and three touchdowns through the air while adding 83 yards and a score on the ground. His brother, Jack Waddell, was the team’s leading receiver with eight catches for 121 yards and a touchdown. On the defensive side, Jack was the team’s leading tackler, totaling 13 solos and nine assisted tackles.

“Jack and John kind of do what Jack and John do on both sides of the ball,” Willyerd said. “Glendive had a really good line and John didn’t have a lot of time to throw and we had some bad snaps that he made really good plays out of. Jack, on the defensive side, was awesome, and on the offensive side obviously he had 121 yards … Jack and John obviously have that brother connection where John seems to find (Jack) when he’s in trouble.”

Matt Netley pulled in six catches for 108 yards and two scores, while Warren Hanson had five catches for 60 yards and Purkett had three catches for 35 yards.

“The good thing about our offense was it got spread around,” Willyerd said. “The ball was spread out a lot so no one could just key in on Jack and John.”

Park’s defense showed good signs, forcing five interceptions and sacking the quarterback twice. Newcomer Michael Raya hauled in three of the team’s five picks, taking one back for a touchdown in the first quarter. But the run defense was lined up against a Glendive offensive line that returned all five starters from the year before, which led the way for 363 yards and five scores on the ground. Despite the big numbers, Glendive needed 62 attempts to get there.

“We didn’t really give up big chunks, it was just they were really good at getting four and five and six yards at a time,” Willyerd said. “We have some things to fix as far as run fits go … They didn’t have any big runs where they broke and got a touchdown or anything.”

Special teams bonus

Park may have found itself a reliable kicker in Friday’s win. Matt Shandy went 3-for-3 on extra points, giving the Park coaching staff more options in the kicking game.

“Last year, we couldn’t even go for an extra point, and (Matt, in this game) was 3-for-3 with extra points and I won’t be afraid to kick 30-yard field goals with him,” Willyerd said. “When you look at a 35-34 game and they missed the extra point attempt that they tried and they went away from it and started going for 2-point conversions. And we kept kicking extra points and didn’t miss any and we won because of it. That’s a huge deal for us.”

Up next

Park has its home opener 7 p.m. Friday against rival Belgrade. This will be the last scheduled meeting between the two teams due to Belgrade moving up to AA next season.

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