For the second week in a row, the Park Center football team was greatly aided by a strong second half.
After falling to Cooper in week one, the Pirates came back from an 18-14 halftime deficit to earn a 42-30 victory over Richfield Sept. 8.
“This is a confidence builder,” Park Center head football coach Paul Strong said. “We shot ourselves in the foot early, but I’m proud of the kids for battling back and not giving up on each other.
“Our coaches did a good job of making adjustments in the second half.”
Quarterback Jemal Brown and running back Emmanuel Tamba ran for 1-yard touchdowns in the first half, but the Pirates began to show off their big play ability in the second half.
Eric Phillips kicked off the second half with an 11-yard touchdown before Brown hit Tamba for a 67-yard touchdown, and wide receiver Levonte Parker for a 54-yard touchdown pass to give the Pirates a 35-30 lead.
Strong said the key to the Pirates’ big plays in the second half was finding a run game after leaning on the passing game early.
“We were trying to get a little rhythm with our passing game, but, in the locker room, our offensive line told us we should just pound them,” Strong said. “Emmanuel wanted the ball and they were bringing two over the top to help with Levonte, so he was just a decoy.
“It was a good team win, but we have a lot of work to do.”
Richfield had traded scores with the Pirates in the second half, and had driven down to the Park Center 6-yard line, where a fourth-down pass play fell incomplete. On the next play, Tamba ran for a 94-yard touchdown to seal the victory.
“Our offensive line kept telling us that if we got that stop, then we should just run the ball,” Strong said. “I told them we would run the ball, Emmanuel got the ball in his hands and we told him to trust what he saw and let his ability take over and he did that.”
When Tamba got the ball, he knew he was going to be able to score on the play after seeing his team provide perfect blocking downfield.
“I see about five of my men in front of me,” Tamba said. “I owe my teammates, I owe my linemen and I owe all my coaches.”
One season removed from a one-win campaign, Park Center is glad to be playing well early in the season.
“This feels amazing, our team had to come out and execute and do everything we do in practice,” Parker said. “We learned from our mistakes.”
Park Center will play next against Coon Rapids at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15, at Coon Rapids High School. In order to keep up their winning ways, the Pirates know they have to limit their mistakes and continue making big plays.
“We just have to continue to not shoot ourselves in the foot, avoid penalties and not be over-aggressive,” Strong said. “The kids can’t allow the game to be too big, it has to slow down in their minds and stop when the whistle blows.”
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