BEMIDJI – In the season opener three weeks ago the Bemidji High School football team played very well but lost at Moorhead 34-30.
Friday night at Chet Anderson Stadium, the Lumberjacks struggled both offensively and defensively but managed to defeat Duluth East 14-7.
Bemidji’s quality of play in the Moorhead game probably was better than Friday’s performance against the Greyhounds but, when all is said and done, the Jacks won their home opener and improved to 2-1.
“In the first week of the season we lost pretty at Moorhead and Friday we won ugly over Duluth East,” BHS coach Troy Hendricks said. “And winning ugly feels much better than losing pretty.”
Bemidji’s offense generated a pair of second-quarter touchdowns while the defense tossed a first-half shutout.
In the second half, however, the roles were reversed. Duluth East dominated the time of possession and the Jacks were fortunate to limit the visitors to only one touchdown.
“In the first half we were running the ball well but overall we felt that we were still missing some things,” Hendricks said. “Defensively I thought we were figuring things out and in the second quarter we were playing aggressively and fast.
“Unfortunately, the boys thought that Duluth East was going to roll over and play dead in the second half,” the coach continued. “Our focus wasn’t where it needed to be and that is on the field playing with intensity and getting after them for two more quarters.”
The Greyhounds, however, were focused in the second half. The visitors served notice that they were not going to roll over and play dead in the first series when they marched through Bemidji’s defense for 71 yards and a touchdown.
The drive featured 10 consecutive running plays and was capped by a 15-yard scamper around the left side by quarterback Alex Toscano.
Toscano also booted the conversion and 4:42 into the third quarter Duluth East trailed only 14-7.
The Jacks gained 18 yards in three plays on the ensuing drive but on a first-and-10 from their 48 quarterback James Hendricks lost a fumble after a 12-yard scramble.
Duluth East seemed destined to tie the game after reaching Bemidji’s 23 but a pair of holding penalties pushed the Greyhounds back and the drive eventually fizzed at the BHS 25.
Bemidji’s offense reached midfield on its next possession but a pair of motion penalties killed the drive at the Jacks 38.
With three minutes to play in the game and Bemidji still clinging to the 14-7 lead Duluth East sealed its fate when a BHS punt bounced off a Greyhound blocker and was recovered by Richard Seado. With the help of a first down Bemidji was able to bleed the clock and claim the victory.
The Lumberjacks played much better in the first half and took a 14-0 lead courtesy of a 19-yard pass from Hendricks to Connor McNallan and a 45-yard scamper by Jaylen Ingalls.
McNallan out-jumped Toscano at the front left pylon to make his TD catch while Ingalls found room on the outside and weaved through a baffled Greyhound defense for his score.
The Lumberjacks employ an offense that is designed to confuse a defense through fakes and deception. On Ingalls’ TD the deception was especially effective as one of the officials was fooled by the trickery and blew his whistle thinking that a ball carrier had been tackled in the interior of the line.
While the official was looking inside, however, Ingalls was busting free outside and the Lumberjacks junior didn’t stop until he reached the end zone.
Will Annette booted both first-half conversions to give the Jacks their 14-0 halftime advantage and provide just enough points to survive the second-half troubles.
“Our inexperience showed tonight,” Hendricks said. “Our focus still isn’t there and it better return by next week when we go to Brainerd.
“But the bottom line is we found a way to win this game and there were years in the past where we would have lost,” Hendricks continued “And we should give the guys credit for that.”
Duluth East 0 0 7 0 - 7
Bemidji 0 14 0 0 - 14
B-McNallan, 19-pass from Hendricks. PAT-Annette kick. 4:27
B-Ingalls, 45-run. PAT-Annette kick. 6:48
DE-Toscano, 15-run. PAT-Toscano kick. 4:42