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Wolverines hope to continue run in playoffs on Saturday

Wadena-Deer Creek's Preston Warren stiff arms a defender and looks for more yards in a regular season match up with Parkers Prairie. Jason Groth/Pioneer Journal

It was fitting for Wadena-Deer Creek head coach Howie Kangas to be at the helm on Oct. 24 when the Wolverines snapped a playoff drought that started in 1998. Kangas was the opposing sideline when the 19 year drought began in 1998

The Wolverines opened the playoffs with a convincing win over Roseau in 1998 and were the top seed in the region. However, they were upended by the Perham Yellowjackets, who were coached by Kangas at the time in the section semifinals.

After snapping that skid, this batch of Wolverines hopes to make some more history when they travel to Barrett to take on the West Central Area/Ashby Knights in the Section 6AA semifinals.

The Knights advanced to the semifinals with a 30-13 victory over Osakis in the first round of the playoffs. The Knights are 5-4 overall, including a 28-20 victory over the Wolverines, spoiling homecoming for the Wolverines.

In that contest, the Knights rushed for 182 yards, while passing for 119 yards. They used a big third quarter, scoring 12 points, to take a two-score lead on the Wolverines. The Wolverines battled back to the end despite trailing late into the fourth quarter.

Jake Dykhoff passed for 248 yards and two touchdowns. He was the leading rusher with 37 yards on 14 attempts and one score.

Ross Anderson passed for 119 yards and two scores for West Central Area, while Brady Sabolik ran for 105 yards on 20 carries. Kaden Spindler rushed for 85 yards and one score, while Anderson rushed for a score as well.

However, the Wolverines have momentum on their side winning three straight games, including a 42-20 victory over Staples-Motley in the Section 6A quarterfinals.

The Wolverines will have to be prepared for many different looks from West Central Area. Kangas said they have to do a lot of filmwork and put together a gameplan in short order with the short week.

One of the things that has helped the Wolverines during their win streak has been their ability to sustain drives and find a nice balance on the ground and through the air. The Wolverines have rushed for more than a 100 yards during all three wins. Matt Goeden has been a nice compliment in the backfield to Dykhoff. Goeden sealed the win against Staples-Motley with an 87-yard run. Goeden finished with 141 yards on the ground on 22 carries in the win.

Dykhoff rushed for 132 yards as well, scoring two touchdowns in the win.

However, the connection between Dykhoff and Preston Warren has really stepped up to the next level during the season. Warren finished with six receptions for 174 yards and three touchdowns. Warren led the team with 33 receptions during the regular season. He finished with 501 yards receiving and four touchdowns. Dykhoff passed for 1,050 yards on the season with nine touchdowns.

One of the things that has helped the Wolverines during their run has been the play of their defense. They forced five Staples-Motley turnovers in the playoff win, including four interceptions. They have forced nine turnovers during the winning streak, while committing just two of their own. During their struggles, the defense struggled to get off the field on third down. They turned that around as well during their three wins. The Cardinals converted on four of their chances, while Long Prairie-Grey Eagle converted on two third downs. In the first meeting with Staples-Motley, the Cardinals had success on just one third down try and one fourth down try.

Kick off for the Wolverines and the Knights is set for 7 p.m. on Oct. 28 in Barrett. The other section semi-final features Pillager hosting Morris Area at 7 p.m. in Pillager. The Section 6AA Championship is set for Nov. 3 at 5:30 p.m. at the Fargodome in Fargo.

Jason Groth

 Groth is a Minnesota Newspaper Association award-winning Sports Editor of the Perham Focus and the Wadena Pioneer Journal. Groth worked in Grand Rapids as the Sports Director at KOZY/KMFY radio for two years and prior to that he was the Sports Editor/Writer for the Grand Rapids Herald-Review for seven years. 

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