Kirk Dougal/Times Bulletin
Parkway quarterback Bryce Bedwell throws for a first down to Logan Hunter in the first half of a game against Minster on Friday, Oct. 16, in Minster.
Kirk Dougal/Times Bulletin Parkway quarterback Bryce Bedwell throws for a first down to Logan Hunter in the first half of a game against Minster on Friday, Oct. 16, in Minster.
BY KIRK DOUGAL

Times Bulletin Editor

kdougal@timesbulletin.com

MINSTER - The Parkway football team did its best imitation of Ohio State on Friday as they used big plays on special teams and defense - with just enough offense - to capture their first win of the year over Minster, 17-15, in Midwest Athletic Conference play.

Parkway was unable to move the ball on their first series and punted the ball away to Minster. The home Wildcats had a 44-yard run called back because of holding on their first drive and then on third and one were stuffed at the line on the dive play. As they moved to kick the ball away, it seemed both defenses were in control of the game.

Minster's punt was short and took a big hop into the air. Parkway senior Matt Dugan grabbed it on the run, blowing past unsuspecting Minster special teams players, hurdled a downed Wildcat, and then broke it outside and up the right sideline to go virtually untouched on a 90-yard touchdown return. Parkway missed the extra point but they were on top 6-0 and the Panther fans who braved to drive and the cold were elated.

Uneven play on offense was the norm for both teams the rest of the first half. Parkway quarterback Bryce Bedwell was intercepted twice before the break, once at the Minster four-yard line. Minster turned the ball over as well, fumbling the ball on a pitch, but their offensive problems were caused by the dominance of the front seven of Parkway. Every time Wildcat quarterback Adam Niemeyer dropped back to pass, he was either sacked or hit as he threw. Minster was unable to run the ball against the Parkway defense either, gaining only 14 yards on the ground in the first half.

Parkway again made its own breaks in the third quarter. Minster came out of the break fired up and moving the ball. Runs and passes were gaining chunks of yards on every play until they got down to a first and goal from the Panther nine yard line. After just missing a touchdown on a fade route and a picking up two yards on a pitch, Niemeyer took a deep seven-yard drop. Under pressure again he tried to hit a Minster receiver on a hook route near the sideline but Johnathon Fent jumped the route on the dead run, giving no one a chance to catch him on a 92-yard interception return for a touchdown. The two-point conversion was good and Parkway led 14-0.

Minster was not done, however. In the fourth quarter they turned the freshman Niemeyer loose and used five wideouts on nearly every play. Although he continued to take tremendous punishment from Parkway's defensive line and linebackers, his passes ate up big chunks of ground. He finally hit Ross Heitkamp on a nine-yard dig route for their first score and narrowed the lead to 14-7.

But Parkway coach Ed Kuhn was not going to try to milk out the clock with an offense that had sputtered at times during the evening. On the very first play after the kickoff from their own 29, an out and up pass from Bryce Bedwell to Caleb Rodriguez gained 41 yards. After another 12-yard pass completion, Parkway squeaked a 27-yard field goal just over the cross bar for some breathing space back to 17-7.

They would need it. Niemeyer drove his team down the field and connected with Daniel Gusching for the seventh time in the game at the goal line and Gusching carried the Parkway defender into the end zone. A two-point conversion later and the Panthers' lead was down to 17-15 at the 1:18 mark.

The all-important onside kick was next and Parkway recovered it, allowing them to run out the clock for their first victory.

"I just want to say praise God for these guys and what they've gone through," said Kuhn after the game. "We hung in there and I am very proud of my guys."

He also agreed that the front seven on defense was crucial to their win.

"Coach Fisher, defensive coordinator, did a good job of dialing up good blitzes that the guys executed. We have been working on it all year and tonight put together some of it and it worked. We spend a lot of time talking about character at Parkway. And character counts in both life and football. We talk about persevering, being iron-willed, and a credit to their character, they haven't quit all year."

Parkway raises its record to 1-7 overall and 1-5 in the MAC. Minster falls to 1-7, 0-6.