High School Football: Bemidji beats Moorhead 28-21 in season opener
The resilience of young football players was on display during the final minutes of Friday's 28-21 Bemidji victory over Moorhead at Chet Anderson Stadium.
With 1:36 remaining in the game the Spuds trailed 28-14 and faced a fourth-and-13 from the BHS 43.
Receiver Mason Ness broke into the middle of the field and was spotted by quarterback Jacob Uglem. He also, however, was spotted by Bemidji safety Cody Rutledge.
Uglem sent the pass to Ness and Rutledge zeroed in on the interception. Unfortunately, Rutledge was a half a step late. The pass found its mark, Ness made the catch and Moorhead was within 28-21.
The Spuds successfully worked the onside kick and with 44 seconds Moorhead tried the same same play, this time with Taylor Burns as the intended target.
Uglem threw the pass and Burns and Rutledge both broke for the ball. This time Rutledge's timing was perfect as he snared the pass, made the interception and sealed victory.
The ending came as no surprise to Lumberjacks coach Troy Hendricks.
"So often the Bemidji-Moorhead games come down to the final play," the coach said. "This time we were fortunate to win. Moorhead showed a lot of fire but we have the ability to make a key play when we need one."
The Jacks made enough plays to win their opening game and three key plays were produced by the passing game.
Quarterback Mitch Hendricks teamed with his wide receivers for three long touchdowns.
On Bemidji's opening series Hendricks capped a 51-yard drive with a 33-yard aerial to Ben Hengel who found a gap behind the defender at the right-front pylon.
Another defensive stop by Bemidji gave the offense a short field for its next series and Hendricks and his crew took full advantage of the wind and the field position.
Jesse Eck had the honors on the final play of the 54-yard march as he outraced the defense and scored on an 8-yard scamper around the right end.
The Spuds drew within 14-7 with 5:50 to play in the half as Matt Duginski scored untouched from 16 yards out.
The 14-7 score stood the rest of the half but four minutes into the third period Bemidji's passing game struck again when Hendricks connected with Hengel for a 39-yard TD pass along the right sideline.
Moorhead's defense pushed Bemidji deep into its own territory late in the third quarter and the pressure finally paid dividends when the Spuds blocked a punt in the end zone and pounced on it for the score.
Early in the final stanza, however, BHS answered when Carey Woods teamed with Hendricks on a 28-yard TD pass.
The score set the stage for the final two minutes and Rutledge's interception.
"It was a great game to start the season," Troy Hendricks said. "Any time you beat Moorhead it's a big victory. We made mistakes and we showed our youth but we also demonstrated that we have a great deal of ability on this team."
Bemidji hosts Fergus Falls next Friday in its next game.
"We'll work on our mistakes this week and I think you'll see us play better against Fergus Falls," the coach added.