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Panthers get physical in victory over North Central

Great Plains Lutheran’s RJ Perry, bottom and Myles York, left, combine to tackle North Central’s Spencer Buechler, center, during Saturday’s game at the Lake Region Conference Football Classic at Dacotah Bank Stadium. Photo by John Davis taken 9/24/2022

Last year Great Plains Lutheran lost the battle on the line of scrimmage in a lopsided setback to North Central. The Panthers were determined to change that story line Saturday afternoon.

Great Plains Lutheran set the tone early, dominated play in the trenches and rolled to a 41-8 win over the Thunder during the Lake Region Conference Football Classic at Dacotah Bank Stadium.

“We knew going in that we couldn’t be out-physicalled,” said GPL coach Aaron Schleusener. “That was going to be the key, because that’s what they did to us in the past and we needed to make sure that didn’t happen.”

Senior lineman RJ Perry, who missed last year’s 36-0 loss to the Thunder because of illness, ensured that the Panthers were going to be the more physical team this time around. The 6-foot 275-pound senior blew up play after play and made life miserable for the North Central offense all game long.

“Last year we came out we got out-physicalled,” Perry said. “This year we came out, game planned the entire week, let’s be physical, out-physical them. I think we set the tone right away with physical (play).”

Perry finished with 7 tackles, and a sack. He also blocked a punt to help set up his team’s first touchdown.

“I don’t know how I got through. It just kind of happened,” Perry said. “Shoot that B gap, then I got through and I was like oh, well, I might as well put my hand up.”

Brody Scharlemann fired a 16-yard touchdown pass to Myles York three plays later and the Panthers were off and running.

Scharlemann ended up throwing four TD passes in all, two each to York and Jacob Bartles.

“Brody played well. Watching his progression through the last couple of weeks has been amazing,” Perry said. “He even got injured and he was still out there throwing absolute dimes.”

Not that the Panthers needed to piece together long drives. The GPL defense collected four turnovers in addition to the blocked punt to allow the team’s offense to play on a short field the entire contest.

“Our defense really stepped up today. It needed a game like that,” Schleusener said. “We had a few early that we were a little disappointed with, so to see the defense control it like that is really exciting.”

Great Plains Lutheran’s Thomas Erickson, center, runs in the open on his way to a touchdown during Saturday’s game against North Central at the Lake Region Conference Football Classic at Dacotah Bank Stadium. Photo by John Davis taken 9/24/2022

Meanwhile, the Thunder was never able to sustain any sort of offensive rhythm.

North Central was on its heels the whole game before finally scoring in the final minute of the contest on an eight-yard run by Spencer Buechler.

“For us, we’re trying to get these guys to really compete until the whistle blows,” said North Central coach Dana Strong. “We’ll have two or three at a time compete, but not everyone and you can’t do that.”

The Thunder was led by Landon Wolf who rushed for 69 yards, had nine tackles and recovered a fumble.

“He’s our heart and soul. He cares more than just about any football player I’ve been around,” Strong said. “Every play matters to him. Now that he’s a senior he feels it. He can feel the end coming and he wants every play to matter.”

GPL, which also received rushing touchdowns from Thomas Erickson and Micah Holien, improved to 3-2 on the season and appears to be hitting its stride.

“The team just played really, really well all the way around,” Perry said. “I think we started firing on all cylinders this week.”

Great Plains Lutheran (3-2) 7 27 7 0 – 41

North Central (1-5) 0 0 0 8 – 8

First Quarter

GPL – Myles York 16 pass from Brody Scharlemann (RJ Perry kick), 2:09.

Second Quarter

GPL – Jacob Bartles 20 pass from Scharlemann, 10:46.

GPL – Thomas Erickson 32 run (Roland DeVries pass from Bartles), 7:43.

GPL – Micah Holien 6 run (Perry kick), 3:35.

GPL – Bartles 36 pass from Scharlemann, :26.

Third Quarter

GPL – York 13 pass from Scharlemann (Perry kick), 8:53.

Fourth Quarter

NC – Spencer Buechler 8 run (Landon Wolf run), :59.

OFFENSE: Great Plains Lutheran 29-142 (Holien 9-79, Erickson 9-51, Scharlemann 6-10), passing 4-9-0 for 65 (Scharlemann 4-9-0 for 65), receiving (Bartles 1-36, York 2-29, Alex Heil 1-10), first downs 11; North Central rushing 43-106 (Wolf 16-65, Buechler 5-31), passing 1-6-1 for 5 (Beau Schilling 1-1-0 for 5), receiving (Bryson Hartling 1-5), first downs 5.

DEFENSE: Great Plains Lutheran, Perry 7 tackles, 1 sack and blocked punt, York 7 tackles and 2 fumble recoveries, Holien 5 tackles and 1 interception, Joseph Dahlberg 4 tackles and 1 fumble recovery; North Central, Wolf 9 tackles and 1 fumble recovery, Buechler 3 tackles and 1 fumble recovery.

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