BEMIDJI – Gorgeous fall weather, Chet Anderson Stadium and a large and excited crowd set the stage for a perfect Friday Homecoming evening and the Bemidji High School football team made the most of the opportunity as it dumped Grand Rapids 37-0.
The Lumberjacks dominated from the outset, roaring to a 14-0 lead after 12 minutes, and never let the Thunderhawks mount any type of a comeback. By intermission the cushion was 30-0 and the Jacks padded the margin with a touchdown in the final stanza.
“We stumbled a little in the third quarter but (the mistakes) aren’t anything that’s not fixable. This game was a step in the right direction,” said BHS coach Troy Hendricks whose team improved to 3-2. “The kids responded Friday night. We saw a lot of great things. You could see the kids working through the adversity they created in the past few weeks.”
In the past two games the Lumberjacks struggled during the second half. They survived to nip Duluth East 14-7 but last week Brainerd scored 28 points in the fourth quarter to defeat Bemidji 40-23.
Friday night, however, Bemidji’s defense never faltered.
“Grand Rapids (0-5) hasn’t been shut out yet this year and has had a lead in all four games, just like we have,” the coach continued. “To put a zero up against talented kids like Grand Rapids has was big and to hold that zero through the end of the game is a credit to these kids who have busted their tails off and are playing fast.”
The defense set the tone on the opening possession as Grand Rapids gained only six yards on three plays before being forced to punt.
Bemidji’s offense fared better on its initial opportunity as the Jacks went 55 yards in three plays for the score. Capping the drive was a 55-yard pass from James Hendricks to Jaylen Ingalls. Hendricks found Ingalls in a seam over the middle and the junior outraced the defense to the left sideline, side-stepped the last would-be tackler and rambled into the end zone.
Will Annette booted the conversion and Bemidji was on top to stay.
The teams traded interceptions on their next possessions but on its third drive BHS marched 37 yards in two plays for its second TD of the quarter. Tanner Boes gained two yards on his first run of the drive and on the next play he bolted through the line, raced into a vacated secondary and scampered 35 yards for the score.
The Lumberjacks defense allowed only three first downs the entire first half and those brief Grand Rapids possessions continually gave Bemidji great offensive field position.
Early in the second period BHS needed to go only 22 yards for its third score and Connor McNallan had the honors as he jumped over the shorter defender to snag Hendricks’ 11-yard pass at the front right pylon.
The defense contributed to the scoring frenzy with 1:46 remaining in the stanza when Troy Sauceda blocked a punt out of the end zone for a safety. On the ensuing drive, McNallan caught his second TD pass, this one a 31-yard completion, and Bemidji enjoyed the 30-0 lead at the break.
After a scoreless third quarter the Lumberjacks added the finishing touches to a memorable evening when Boes rammed into the end zone from the 1-yard line, much to the delight of the many Bemidji supporters in attendance.
“It was a great crowd and the kids really, really, really appreciate the fan support,” Hendricks said. “We’re sick of travelling and glad to be back home for two of the last three games.”
The Jacks will close their road season Friday at Alexandria. They will end the regular season with home games against Sauk Rapids on Oct. 12 and Sartell on Oct. 17.
Boes gained 164 yards on 24 runs Friday while Brady Schmidt ran three times for 33 yards. James Hendricks completed six of his 10 passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns.
McNallan caught three passes for 85 yards and two TDS while Ingalls gained 87 yards on three receptions.
Grand Rapids 0 0 0 0 - 0
Bemidji 14 16 0 7 - 37
B-Ingalls, 55-pass from Hendricks. PAT-Annette kick. 3:26
B-Boes, 35-run. PAT-Annette kick. 8:03
B-McNallan, 11-pass from Hendricks. PAT-Annette kick. 4:46
B-Safety, Sauceda blocks punt out of end zone. 10:14
B-McNallan, 31-pass from Hendricks. PAT-Annette kick. 11:17
B-Boes, 1-run. PAT-Annette kick. 2:14