BEMIDJI – The scouting report for the Sauk Rapids football team showed a team that stacked the inside and ran, ran, ran.
When the Storm came to Chet Anderson Stadium to face Bemidji, however, the Lumberjacks found themselves up against a team that also employed the deep passing game as part of its arsenal.
During the first half BHS was caught off guard and the Jacks trailed 20-13 at intermission.
But, as was the case last week at Alexandria, Bemidji made the necessary adjustments during the break. Those changes, and a renewed attitude, carried the Lumberjacks to a 41-20 victory.
Sauk Rapids burned Bemidji’s defense for 321 yards in the first half and half of them came on two long touchdown passes. The first came midway through the second period when Storm quarterback Joel Haller connected with Jake Lynch on an 85-yard TD which gave the visitors a 14-7 lead.
The Lumberjacks trimmed their deficit to 14-13 with 24 seconds to play in the half when Brady Schmidt found the end zone from five yards out but on the final play of the half Haller found Brandon Morrison streaking along the left sideline behind the BHS defenders.
The catch and run resulted in a 73-yard TD which vaulted Sauk Rapids’ halftime advantage to 20-13.
“You have to give credit to Sauk Rapids. They came in here with a good game plan and took advantage of us maybe overplaying the run and got the pass to work for them,” said Jacks coach Troy Hendricks.
At intermission the Storm had outgained the Jacks 321-198 but Bemidji had taken Sauk Rapids’ best shot and trailed only by seven points.
In the third quarter BHS turned its fortunes around and leading the charge were the offense and the members of the punt return team.
Bemidji’s Tanner Boes capped the opening 65-yard drive of the third quarter with a 17-run tie the game at 20-20.
The defense forced a three-and-out and on fourth down at the 18-yard line the Jacks coaching staff decided to go for the block.
Troy Sauceda came around the right side, got his arm on Haller’s boot and knocked the ball into the end zone where Schmidt pounced on it for what proved to be the winning touchdown.
A minute later the defense forced a fumble that Aaron Bofferding recovered at the Sauk Rapids 45. That recovery set the stage for Hendricks’ 10-yard TD pass to Ryan Hirt.
In a span of 3:34 the home team had turned a 20-13 deficit into a 34-20 lead.
“Defensively we played really passive to start the game and we played unaggressive football,” the coach said. “But once somebody makes a big play the boys rally and start playing with emotion.”
The scoring spree also lifted the defense which stopped the Storm on downs in the red zone on their next two possessions.
The Lumberjacks finally cemented the win with two minutes to play when Schmidt ran in from the 1-yard line.
Despite the 21-point victory Bemidji is still looking for a complete-game performance.
“We just have to find the 11 guys who want to play four quarters,” Hendricks said. “If you have 10 guys playing their spots and one guy who isn’t and it happens to be where they are attacking, you are in trouble.”
Bemidji, 5-2, will have to be prepared to play four full quarters Wednesday when it hosts Sartell in the regular season finale.
“If you don’t play four quarters against a quality opponent like Sartell, you’re in trouble,” the coach said.
James Hendricks led the ground game with 121 yards on 13 runs. He also completed five passes for 58 yards. Hirt caught four the aerials for 57 yards.
Schmidt had 89 yards on 13 runs and Boes carried 12 times for 71 yards.
Sauk Rapids 6 14 0 0 - 20
Bemidji 0 13 21 7 - 41
SR-Keske, 1-run. PAT-kick blocked. 11:44
B-Hendricks, 14-run. PAT-McNallan kick. 4:53
SR-Lynch, 85-pass from Haller. PAT-Lynch run. 5:43
B-Schmidt, 5-run. PAT-kick wide. 11:36
SR-Morrison, 73-pass from Haller. PAT-run failed. 12:00
B-Boes, 17-run. PAT-McNallan kick. 3:25
B-Schmidt, recovers blocked punt in end zone. PAT-McNallan kick. 5:19
B-Hirt, 10-pass from Hendricks. PAT-McNallan kick. 6:59
B-Schmidt, 1-run. PAT-McNallan kick. 10:09