On to state! Bemidji football team captures section title, complete Duluth sweep
The Bemidji Lumberjacks completed their march through Duluth Friday night, belting Denfeld 40-14 to capture the Section 7-4A high school football title.
The win sends Bemidji to St. Cloud State next Saturday to open state play against the winner of tonight's 8-4A title game between Sartell and Alexandria.
Neither will be a stranger to the Jacks, who lost to both this season.
It is Bemidji's first trip to state since 2001 when they fell to Wayzata and Marion Barber in the first round. It hopes to do better this trip.
It also assures the Jacks of their first non-losing season since that year, raising their record to 6-5. Denfeld closed at 7-4.
The switch to 7-4A from 8-5A did the Jacks wonders as they demolished Duluth East 20-0 and Duluth Central 40-0 before closing with the Denfeld win.
The two teams traded first- period scores with Denfeld leading 8-7.
But Bemidji rolled up 33 straight points through the next two quarters to take a 40-8 lead before surrendering the game to the reserves.
Bemidji found many ways to score, but land, by air and by interception.
Mitch Hendricks ran for one score and passed for two others. Czar Woods had two touchdowns while his brother Carey had one as did Ryan Rude, Evan Olson and Matt Hietala. Hietala's came on the interception return.
The Hunters' 250-pound junior fullback was the only player to cause Bemidji problems, bulling his way for 104 yards on 14 carries. But Bemidji shut him down when it had to and contained the other Hunters all night.
They showed no passing threat with quarterback Mitch Svihil hitting 6-13, only two for more than10 yards.
Bemidji went three and out on its first possession but scored on its next five before halftime.
Czar Woods returned the first Denfeld punt 52 yards to the Denfeld 28 and later gained 15 more to the 14.
The Jacks overcame two penalties to score with Hendricks carrying 14 yards to the four and going in from the three two pays later, Mike Rees converted.
Denfeld responded immediately on Tom Lawler's 28 yard kickoff return and a 29 yard bolt by Ham to the 22. Four plays later Luke Jazdzewski went the final nine and Ham plunged for the two-point conversion and an 8-7 lead.
But the Jacks went on the move after the kickoff and marched 59 yards spanning the first break to regain the lead.
Olson launched the move with 18- and 14-yard bolts up the middle and Hendricks found Rude for the final 26 into the end zone. The two- point conversion pass failed. Bemidji led 13-8.
After Denfeld stalled near midfield, Bemidji went 70 yards in three plays to widen the lead. An 18-yard pass to Rude was followed by a 56-yard bomb to Carey Woods, who outraced the Hunters secondary to score. Rees' kick made it 20-8.
But the Jacks were far from through.
They successfully executed an onside kick, recovering the ball at the Hunters' 46. Hendricks found Rude for 26 to the 20 and five plays later Olson went the final yard to score. Rees' kick sailed wide.
Less than a minute later, Bemidji scored again. This came on Hietala's interception and 45-yard return on the second play following the kickoff.
There was time left for more heroics but no more points.
The Hunters drove to the Bemidji 20 on a sustained march before Harley Kroening intercepted Svihil to stave off trouble.
But Bemidji fumbled the ball away at the 37 and Denfeld threatened again before being repulsed at the 18. On fourth down at the 25, they coughed up the ball with Olson recovering and sprinting to the Denfeld seven before being caught from behind as time expired.
At this point Bemidji had 226 yards to Denfeld's 165.
The Jacks had the ball for only four plays in the third period but expanded the lead.
The first three resulted in the final touchdown that came after a Denfeld drive to the Bemidji 31.
Bemidji held for downs and three plays later Czar Woods bolted 60 yards to pay dirt. Rees kicked the 40th point, tying the season high registered in the last start in the win over Central.
Denfeld then used up the rest of the period on a 15-play drive that reached the 20 before being stopped on a 15 yard penalty.
By this time, the Bemidji reserves were in action and yielded one final score.
Dan Warren's 46-yard punt return set it up reaching the Bemidji 34. A 17-yard carry by Brendan Lawler reached the one and Warren scored from there two plays later. A two-point conversion pass failed.
Neither team threatened the rest of the game with Cody Rutledge picking up Bemidji's third interception late in the game.
Denfeld, which ran 25 more plays than Bemidji, held a 225-194 rushing lead while Bemidji led through the air 130-65. Hendricks completed 7 of 9, with Rude grabbing three and Carey Woods and Cole Bardwell two. Ham had 104 ground yards for the losers and Jazdzewski 45.
Bemidji will take a three-game win string to state quarterfinals. Alex matches a 9-1 mark against Sartell's 10-0 into tonight's game. The Alex loss came in its season opener to Sauk Rapids.
Bemidji 7 26 7 0---40
Denfeld 8 0 0 6---14
Bem-Hendricks 5 yard run (Rees, kick)
DD-Jazdzewski, 9 yard run (Ham, run)
Bem-Rude, 26 yard pass from Hendricks (run failed)
Bem-Cary Woods, 56 yard pass from Hendricks (Rees, kick)
Bem-Olson, 1 yard run (kick failed)
Bem-Hietala, 44 yard interception (Rees. kick)
Bem-Czar Woods, 60 yard run (Rees, kick)
DD-Warren, 1 yard run (pass failed)
First downs 17 13
Yards rushing 225 194
Yards passing 65 130
Passes 6-13 7-9
Intercepted by 0 3
Fumbles/Lost 4-2 2-1
Penalties 3-25 5-45
Turnovers 5 1
Punts. avg. yds. 2-25 2-39
Offensive plays 65 40
RUSHING: Bem-Czar Woods 10-105; Olson 6-37; Eck 3-23; DD: Ham 14-107; Jazdzewski 13-45; Dakovic 7-18; Lawler 5-18; Phousongphuang 1-17
PASSING: Bem-Hendricks 7-9-0--130; DD: Svihjl 6-13-3--65
RECEIVING;: Bem-Rude 3-70; Carey Woods 2-57; DD-Phousongphuang 2-26; Ham 1-22; Warner 2-14