CROSSING LINES:

Fergus Falls receiver Cole Zierden crosses the goal line for the Otters' first touchdown of the game during Saturday's playoff matchup against Perham.

The Otters football team ended their home-field playoff run Saturday, defeating the Perham Yellowjackets decisively, 35-14. With the win Fergus Falls punches their ticket to the Section 8 AAA championship game at the Fargodome against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (DGF), Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

After a scoreless first quarter that saw the Otters turn the ball over twice Fergus Falls bounced back in the second quarter — taking the lead on a 97-yard drive capped off by a 25-yard pass from Carter Thielke to Cole Zierden. Jadon Manteufel would make good on the extra-point kick as the Otters took the lead 7-0 over the Yellowjackets. Then after a fumble recovery by Jonah Sorum that gave Fergus Falls possession of the ball, on the very next play from the line of scrimmage, running back Griffin Babolian broke through Perham’s defense on an option play for a 19-yard touchdown followed by another Manteufel PAT, increasing the Otters’ lead to 14-0.

Down but not out, Perham would answer back, getting on the board with a 67-yard drive, crossing the goal line on a 1-yard keeper by quarterback Colton Hackel, but the Otters stopped the two-point conversion attempt making the score 14-6. With short time before the break the Otters’ Andrew Johnson gave Fergus Falls excellent field position on the ensuing kickoff returning the ball to Perham’s 37-yard line. The Otters would make Johnson’s effort worthwhile, marching the ball 37 yards, reaching the end zone on a 4-yard run by Landon Thacker. After Manteufel tacked on the extra point the Otters would go into the break, up 21-6.

After a scoreless third quarter with strong defensive play by both teams the Otters would resume scoring in the fourth after a Zierden punt return opened the door for a 34-yard drive. The Otters would cap the drive with a 13-yard TD pass from Thielke to Luke Newman, followed by Manteufel booting in another extra point, increasing the Otters lead, 28-6. To the Yellowjackets’ credit instead of rolling over they dug deep, marching the ball 67-yards for Hackel’s second touchdown of the night on a 1-yard keeper, followed by the two-point conversion making the score 28-14. As the fourth quarter drew to a close the Otters would then deliver the game’s coup de grace with a 47-yard drive, scoring on an 8-yard TD scamper by Thielke with the follow-up Manteufel extra point, for the 35-14 final.

“Completely opposite of how we wanted to start, we talked about keeping the ball in our hands … but man our playmakers showed up and made plays,” said Otters head coach Steve Olson after the game. “If you’re missing on some big plays, it means you’re doing something right … but you also have to finish them.”

Offensively the Otters had 322 yards of total offense including 157 rushing on 26 carries and 165 passing. The leading rusher for Fergus Falls was Griffin Babolian with nine carries for 67 yards. Thielke was 8 for 14 and was responsible for all of the Otters’ passing yards while the leading receiver was Newman with four catches for 70 yards and one touchdown.

Perham had 231 yards of total offense including 164 rushing on 47 carries and 67 yards in the air. Hackel scored both of the Yellowjackets’ touchdowns.

After defeating Thief River Falls earlier in the day by the score of 28-7, the No. 2 seeded Otters will now take on the No. 1 seeded DGF Rebels for the section championship at the Fargodome at 5:30 p.m., Thursday. The game should be a great test for the Otters as the Rebels defeated Fergus Falls in the regular season, 13-7.

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