Bemidji High School football team rolls to section final with 34-6 win
Saturday's performance wasn't perfect, but Bemidji High School football coach Troy Hendricks would take such an effort, and the result, every time.
The Lumberjacks advanced to next Friday's 7 p.m. Section 8-4A championship game against Grand Rapids by overpowering Hermantown 34-6 Saturday night at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Grand Rapids, which was seeded second in the section, gained Friday's opportunity by downing Duluth Central 16-12 Saturday afternoon.
BHS, which was the top seed, will host the section title game for the first time since 1998 when it lost to Brainerd.
"It's going to be a fun game and we are very excited to host the section final next week," Hendricks said. "The kids knew what was at stake against Hermantown and they responded."
The Lumberjacks displayed a balanced attack and Kevin Nelson provided the bulk of the scoring. The senior capped four drives with touchdown runs while the other score came midway through the fourth quarter when quarterback Mitchell Hendricks connected with Carey Woods on a 50-yard TD pass.
Defensively the starters tossed a shutout, yielding some long gainers but stepping up to the challenge when it was presented.
"We played well on both sides of the ball," Hendricks said. "We made a few mistakes but nothing major. When we needed to stop Hermantown we did and when we needed to score we did."
The tone was set on the opening possession when the Jacks went 60 yards in five plays. The key was a 50-yard catch and run by Ben Hengel which set the table for Nelson's 1-yard blast up the middle.
The Hawks threatened with both of their first-quarter possessions but on each occasion the defense came through.
Cody Rutledge's interception stopped Hermantown at the Lumberjacks 32 on the first drive and the visitors lost the ball on downs at the Lumberjacks 10-yard line on their second possession.
Bemidji's offense complimented the defense by driving 90 yards for a touchdown, a march which culminated with Nelson's 28-yard run.
Later in the stanza Nelson would add another 1-yard TD run and BHS enjoyed a 20-0 lead at the break.
Any hopes of a Hermantown comeback were squashed midway through the third period when Nelson scored from 10 yards out to up the cushion to 27-0.
The highlight of that drive was a 72-yard pass completion to Hengel. Mitchell Hendricks spotted his wide receiver behind the defense and the quarterback delivered a perfect strike. Hengel was eventually tackled at the 10 and two plays later Nelson found the end zone.
The home team used the long ball again in the final stanza to cap its scoring.
On a third-and-15 from midfield Woods found a seam in the middle of the Hermantown pass defense and Hendricks hit his wide receiver in full stride. Once Woods eluded the initial would-be tacklers, no one could catch him.
"It was a very good overall performance," the coach said. "We didn't have any turnovers and that is always a key. Our running backs continue to run hard and as a team we continue to improve.
"It should be a very fun night Friday when Grand Rapids comes here."
Bemidji 34, Hermantown 6
Hermantown 0 0 0 6 - 6
Bemidji 6 14 7 7 - 34
Bem-Nelson, 1-run. PAT-kick fail. 2:16
Bem-Nelson, 28-run. PAT-Hengel run. 3:40
Bem-Nelson, 1-run. PAT-kick fail. 10:53
Bem-Nelson, 10-run. PAT-Henry kick. 7:07
Bem-Woods, 50-pass from Hendricks. PAT-Henry kick. 5:10
H-Hiner, 17-run. PAT-kick fail. 10:45