BRAINERD -- The Bemidji Lumberjacks football team took another giant stride forward Friday night, pushing Brainerd to the limit before falling 21-14.
The Jacks battled back from a 21-0 deficit in the third period to score twice and were stopped at the Warriors four-yard line in the final period with the tying touchdown in sight.
That marked the third time during the game that Bemidji failed to score inside the 18 in a game in which it outplayed the winners for much of the evening.
They out gained the Warriors in yardage 343-256 and were able to move the ball well all night except in the red zone.
Despite the 21-0 deficit, Bemidji was holding its own and needed only a break or two to get into contention.
Those breaks came in the second half to allow two Jacks scores and the threat of a third.
Colby Ring was a one-man wrecking gang for the Warriors, carrying 26 times for 159 of Brainerd's 218 rushing yards.
The Warriors stayed on the ground almost all night, throwing just six passes and completing three, one for a score.
Bemidji staved off the initial Brainerd march that reached the 24 when Carey Woods picked off Scott Ramey at the nine.
Bemidji punted out of danger but Brainerd marched 66 yards for its first score.
The key plays were a 14 yard keeper by Ramey and a 19 yard bolt to the three by Ring.
He scored from there on the next play but Zach Caldwell's placement went wide.
Bemidji then moved to the Brainerd 18 on a sustained drive, 44 coming on a halfback pass from Joe Kingery to Dan Sadek.
But a sack and a fourth down incompletion ended that move.
Brainerd needed four plays to score again with Ring going 15 to the 45 and Ramey finding Mike Gervanek from there for a 55-yard scoring bomb. He ran the conversion for a 14-0 lead.
Bemidji responded immediately marching the length of the field. Nate McGriff's season best 34-yard run to the 12 was the big play. But a fourth down pass at the seven failed to find the mark and Brainerd bit the bullet again .
The Warriors seemingly put the game beyond reach in the opening moments of the third period.
An 18-yard sack of Simon Anderson set the ball back to the 13 and Kyle Crocker returned Alex Hengel's punt to the 18. Five plays later Ring went in from the one. Caldwell converted. Brainerd led 21-0.
If Bemidji was about to quit, it ended those thoughts immediately, going 74 yards on three plays to score.
Travis Greenwaldt opened with 20 to the 45 and went the final 50 two plays later. His placement, however, was wide.
Brainerd seemed. likely to get the seven right back when Ring broke loose for 50 yards to the Bemidji 25.
But a penalty on the run brought the ball back to the Warriors 33 and Carey Woods' fumble recovery moments later keyed the next Jacks score.
It took eight plays to march 39 yards with Greenwaldt going 13 to the 10 and scoring from the nine in two carries, the last from the two. Anderson kept for the two point conversion and Bemidji trailed by seven.
Czar Woods' interception at the Bemidji 48 keyed the next march.
McGriff had the big carry, going 24 yards to the 11.
But a penalty and a fourth down sack squelched that move after it reached the four.
Bemidji had one more chance late in the period but was stymied when Sadek fumbled after a pass reception and Brainerd returned the bobbled ball to the 25.
Bemidji held at the 10 with time running out. Anderson completed two passes to reach the 37 but his third was picked off by Desmond Janousek and returned to the four. Brainerd ran out the clock at the one to end the game.
Greenwaldt ended with 94 yards and McGriff 81 in their best nights of the young year. Anderson completed 13-22 for 129 yards.
Ring was the only effective Brainerd offensive threat.
Both teams stand 1-1 after the decision.
Bemidji moves up on e more step next Friday traveling to St. Cloud to tackle Tech, last year's CLC champion.
Tech beat Brainerd 17-14 in the season opener.
Bemidji will be be home with Alexandria Sept 19.
The varsity win completed a three game sweep for Brainerd which stopped the Bemidji B and C Teams Thursday.