MINNEAPOLIS – Bemidji’s dreams of playing in its second straight state championship game ended Saturday night at the Metrodome when the Lumberjacks lost 23-0 to Totino-Grace in the semifinals of the Class 5A tournament.
Saturday’s setback gave the Lumberjacks a 9-4 final record while Totino-Grace remained unbeaten at 12-0. The Eagles will face Owatonna (12-0) Nov. 24 at the Metrodome for the state championship.
The Jacks were able to move the ball against the Eagles defense but BHS never could find the end zone. Bemidji almost avoided the shutout as it had a first-and-goal at the Eagles 5-yard line late in the contest but that opportunity fizzled when Totino-Grace stopped BHS two yards short of the end zone on a fourth-down run.
At intermission the Jacks trailed only 10-0 but the Eagles scored on the opening march of the third quarter to take complete control.
Bemidji’s defense came to the Metrodome ready to work and during the opening 24 minutes it limited the high-powered Eagles to only a first-quarter field goal and a second-period touchdown.
The latter was set up by the lone first-half turnover by either team, an interception of a James Hendricks pass in the left flat.
Hendricks temporarily saved a touchdown when he switched gears to defense and tackled Carlton Djam who had made the pick in BHS territory and was eventually stopped by Hendricks at the Lumberjacks 30.
Totino-Grace was able to take full advantage of the turnover, however, as Kaz Flomo gained eight yards on an inside run on the first play of the abbreviated drive and quarter A.J. LaPanta capped the march when he connected on a 22-yard TD pass with Charlie Miller who was open near the left front pylon.
Jackson Richards booted the conversion to up the lead to 10-0.
In the first quarter the Jacks gained two first downs on the game’s opening drive but eventually were forced to punt. The Eagles fared better on their initial march, going 83 yards on 12 plays and settling for a 27-yard field goal by Richards.
Offensively the Lumberjacks were able to move the ball as they collected eight first downs in the first half. But they couldn’t sustain those drives and were forced to punt three times.
The trend continued in the second half. After Totino-Grace took the 17-0 lead early in the third quarter Bemidji reached midfield with the aid of two first downs before stalling.
A block-in-the-back penalty on the punt return pushed the Eagles back to their 7-yard-line to start the ensuing drive but on the seventh play of the march LaPanta connected with Lance Bennick on the game-clinching 54-yard TD pass and run.
Totino-Grace gained 128 yards through the air and 230 on the ground. Bemidji had 135 passing yards and 115 on the ground.
Brady Schmidt led the running game with 56 yards on 13 carries. Alex Fenson had five catches for 51 yards to lead the pass receivers.
Bemidji 0 0 0 0 - 0
Totino-Grace 3 7 7 6 - 23
TG-Richards, 27-FG. 8:56
TG-Miler, 54-pass from LaPanta. PAT-Richards kick. 9:12
TG-Miller, 5-pass from LaPanta. PAT-Richards kick. 4:56
TG-Bennick, 54-pass from LaPanta. PAT-kick fail. 0:12