Bison escape the Wolfpack in 39-34 loss

By John Molene
Posted 9/21/23

This one – a 39-34 loss to visiting Buffalo – was one that got away from the Wolfpack.

“(I told them) that’s there’s a gift when you come out on the wrong side of …

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Bison escape the Wolfpack in 39-34 loss


This one – a 39-34 loss to visiting Buffalo – was one that got away from the Wolfpack.

“(I told them) that’s there’s a gift when you come out on the wrong side of it,” said Park head coach Rick Fryklund. “That even though we didn’t end up on the scoreboard the way that we were hoping to this evening, that we still have five regular season games left, that we still have however many playoff games that we’ve got, and the gift is that sometimes after a loss like this you look in the mirror a little more closely and get ready to work a little bit harder.”

One could point to a lot of things which went wrong for Park on Friday.

Park’s defense gave up 39 points and 390 yards of offense – the third straight week this season the Wolfpack have given up 39 points or more.

On the other hand, the Park running game which worked so well against Burnsville a week ago was almost nowhere to be seen. After gaining 358 yards rushing against Burnsville, Park managed just 93 yards rushing against Buffalo. Senior Brett Salmonson, who rushed for 226 yards a week ago against Burnsville, was held to just 18 yards on seven carries Friday night by the Bison.

And the vaunted Park passing game which hit for four touchdowns and nearly 300 yards, couldn’t quite manage a winning dive going in the final minutes.

It all added up to a frustrating 39-34 home loss to the visiting Buffalo Bison at Cottage Grove Friday evening, a loss which dropped Park to 1-2 on the season.

“He (coach Fryklund) told us to keep our heads up because obviously we’ve still got five more games in the regular season,” said senior lineman Mario Rebollar. “He told us to learn from this and come for a big bounce back next week.”

The Wolfpack (1-2 overall, 1-1 in the division) will travel to winless Roseville (0-3, 0-2) Friday, Sept. 22, in its first true road game of the season. Roseville has struggled so far this season, especially on offense, with losses to Woodbury (55-14), Eastview (21-7) and Burnsville (29-7).

On Friday, Buffalo got up early 10-0, but Park strung together one touchdown in the first quarter and then three more scores in the second period to take a 28-24 halftime lead.

After the break, however, Buffalo reasserted itself and grabbed a 32-28 lead at the end of three quarters. The Bison went up 39-28 in the fourth before Park staged a final rally.

Park junior quarterback Miskir Esayas hit Skyler Morgan for a 34-yard touchdown with 3:51 left to make it a 39-34 game. A two-point conversion attempt, which would have cut the deficit to three, failed. The score was Esayas’s fourth passing touchdown of the game and gave Park fans hope that the Wolfpack would do it again and rally for the win.

But it was not to be.

After stopping Buffalo, Park got the ball back at midfield with 1:05 to play and took it down to the Buffalo 33-yard line on two short passes but could go no further.

After playing so well to in the second quarter, Park looked sluggish after the break.

“I feel like we let the lead get to us and we kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” said Park senior linebacker Fiyinfoluwa Taiwo. “So next time, we’re just going to learn from the mistakes we made today and we’re going to bounce back.

“You know I think they just executed better than we did (in the second half) to be honest,” said Fryklund. “All credit to them but they didn’t do anything unusual that we hadn’t seem or prepared for  they just did it better than our defense could execute on the other side of the ball. I think we went into the whole week overconfident.”

Neither team had a lot of success stopping the other. Both teams gained nearly 400 yards in offense. Park did most of its damage through the air with 295 passing yards. Buffalo had 286 yards rushing and 104 passing.

“In the first half we had a lead and I think we got comfortable,” said sophomore linebacker Ben Andrews. “We thought we had the game in our hands and we kind of let off the gas and missed some assignments.”

Buffalo came into the game with a near even split in rushing and passing yards, averaging 167 yards passing and 170 yards rushing. The Bison dominated Hopkins a week ago, rolling to a 56-0 lead after three quarters before winning 56-14.

Park’s Esayas completed 20 of 32 passes for four touchdowns and 295 yards against the Bison. Wolfpack junior wide receiver Dom Batts had himself a night, catching five receptions for 158 yards and three scores. Skyler Morgan caught eight passes for 73 yards and a touchdown and Adam Tait had four receptions for 50 yards.

But Park’s running game managed just 93 total yards. Brett Salmonson was held to just 18 yards on seven attempts for a 2.6 yards per carry average.

While held in check on offense, Salmonson led the defense with eight tackles and three assists for 11 total tackles. Sophomore linebacker Keon Moody had six solo tackles and 11 total tackles. Lucas Moreno-Osterhout had five tackles, three assists, a sack and a tackle for loss. Zach Carr had five total tackles.

Defensively, Park’s players said they just need to tackle better.

“The biggest mistake is we’re not hitting with our shoulders, we’re arm tackling and that led to what happened today,” said Taiwo. “We need to get better at tackling and no more arm tackles.”

GAME NOTES: Before the Buffalo game, Park had moved up 30 spots in the MaxPreps football rankings, to 135th in Minnesota. Here’s how MaxPreps ranked the teams in the Metro Marron division after two games: Buffalo (89), Park (135), Burnsville (163), Eastview (168), Roseville (219) and Hopkins (222).

Park’s remaining non-division foes this season – but still old rivals – Stillwater was ranked 51st and Mounds View 67th.

After three games, Salmonson leads the team in total tackles with 32. Moody has 26, Moreno-Osterhout 18 and Carr 17.

Despite being members of the Suburban East Conference in most sports, Park hasn’t played Roseville in football since the 2014 season. Roseville won that one 34-14.