The Bemidji Lumberjacks scored their biggest football win in many years Tuesday night, upending favored Duluth East 20-0 in the Section 7-4A quarterfinals at Public Schools Stadium at Duluth.
"The defense had a great game plan coming in," Bemidji coach Troy Hendricks said. "They played as well as they have all year."
It capped a night of upsets in the 7-4A openers with three favorites going down the drain.
Top seeded Cloquet fell to winless Duluth Central 20-14 in the PSS opener and third rated Hermantown lost to sixth ranked Grand Rapids 32-8.
Then lone favorite to win was second seeded Denfeld, a 45-20 winner over Hibbing.
"I don't understand it but I'll take it, as long as we play at home," Hendricks said.
Bemidji will host Central Saturday while Denfeld entertains Grand Rapids. The Bemidji-Central game time has not been announced. Denfeld will host Grand Rapids at 2 p.m. at PSS.
The strong Bemidji defense overcame four turnovers to keep the Greyhounds out of the end zone though they came close on several occasions.Bemidji used the long ball to win, setting up its first score on a 29 yard Mitch Hendricks to Ryan Rude pass, using a 39 yard Kevin Nelson run to set up the second and seeing Nelson go 71 yards to score the third in the final period.
"When we had some opportunities to gain momentum and possibly score some points, we made some mistakes," East coach Joe Hietala said. "But I give them a lot of credit because they brought it to us, and I think they're going to be tough to beat down the road."
Bemidji took an early lead on its second possession, and made it stand up until the half,
The Jacks got a big break when their first punt was fumbled away, giving them back the ball at the Duluth 37.
They went nowhere but Evan Olson's second punt was downed at the two.
The return punt carried only to the 39 and Bemidji scored in five plays. The big one was a 29- yard Hendricks throw to Rude to the six. Olson gained five and Czar Woods went in from the one. Jon Henry converted
The Jacks were beginning to move again when Hendricks was picked off at the Bemidji 37 and East moved steadily to the three. Here they were set back on a holding call and a fourth down carry was fumbled at the one with Cody Fear recovering for Bemidji.
The Jacks got one first down before punting and East was back at the 15 before being stopped again.
After an exchang4 of punts, Bemidji moved to the 35 before another interception halted matters.
A long fumble gave them back possession at the Hounds 10. But another pickoff ended that scoring attempt at the five as time expired.
Another East threat
East threatened again to start the second half, marching from its 36 to the Bemidji 16 where Cody Rutledge picked off a Zach Farmer pass to prevent a score.
But again the Jacks couldn't stand prosperity, fumbling the ball away at the 30.
East marched to the 21 where a fourth down try was buried..
Their next fourth down gamble failed at the 47 and put the Jacks back into motion.
After a penalty took them across midfield, Nelson burst up the middle to race to the nine before being caught from behind.
It took four plays to score, the last a one yard Hendricks to Will Bruestle pass from the one. Henry's kick doubled the score.
East, however, refused to go away, moving to the Bemidji 21 on its next move, spanning the period break before again being held one yard shy of a first down.
It took the Jacks only thee plays to put the game to bed. After Czar Woods gained eight on two carries, Nels8n broke up the middle again and this time was not caught on his 79 yard run to score. A bad snap resulted in Henry's kick being blocked.
East had one last gasp after blocking an Olson punt and recovering at the Bemidji 45.
But the defense bent but didn't break once again after Farmer's 33 yard pass to Nick Carlson reached the 12. Four more passes were batted down to end the final threat.
The win lifted Bemidji to 4-5, its first four win season since 2001. East closed at 4-5 as well.
It was also the first opening round win since 2001 ending a string of seven straight first round ousters.