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FOOTBALL: Battle Axe stays in Bemidji as BSU tops MSU-Moorhead 35-25

Bemidji State’s Avery Walker bounces off a tackle by a Minnesota State-Moorhead player during the first half of Bemidji State’s 35-25 win Saturday at Chet Anderson Stadium. Walker ran for 55 yards and scored two touchdowns for BSU. Jack Hittinger | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – Lance Rongstad said he didn’t really think about hurdling Minnesota State-Moorhead safety Shea DeJong in the midst of his 78-yard touchdown run. It just… happened.

“I had time to get a running start, it just hit me that maybe should I just jump over the kid,” he said of leaping over DeJong at midfield. “But I don’t think I ever decided, I think I just did it. It’s just kind of a reaction thing.”

Rongstad’s highlight-reel play – a designed quarterback draw – gave Bemidji State a 14-10 lead late in the second quarter.

“It was one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen,” senior wide receiver Justin Lee said of the run. “I was running my fake bubble route and rather than try and chase down Lance – which is impossible – I just got a back row seat and watched him hurdle that guy and take off.”

Although the Beavers let the Dragons hang around for much longer than they’d have liked, Bemidji State hung on to beat MSU-Moorhead 35-25 in their Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference matchup Saturday at Chet Anderson Stadium.

“This is probably one of the few times this year that our offense has picked up our defense,” said Lee, who finished with 39 yards and a rushing touchdown Saturday. “It was nice to accomplish that.”

The Beavers (6-4, 5-1 NSIC North) racked up 497 yards of total offense to take home the Battle Axe Trophy for the fourth year in a row.

And Lance Rongstad once again did it all for BSU. The senior from Eleva, Wis., finished the day with 127 rushing yards; and was a very efficient 11-for-19 for 202 yards passing and a touchdown.

“Offensively, our whole line played terrific,” Rongstad said. “The receivers and our running backs all stepped up and made big plays when the opportunities presented themselves, so it was a good complete win.”

Despite giving up nearly 500 yards to BSU, the Dragons (1-8, 1-5 NSIC North) never went away, thanks in part to the fact that their two-quarterback offensive scheme kept the BSU defense on its toes. Jake Hodge and Myles Montplasir subbed in and out all game, which helped them score on their very first drive.

The Dragons also had a significant time-of-possession edge, 34:32 to 25:28.

“I thought our offense played well all day,” BSU head coach Jeff Tesch said. “Our defense was pretty good. It seemed to the average fan like they didn’t play as well, but they kept them off the board.

“Maybe the thing was they didn’t get us the ball back. It was the first time in a long time where we got beat on time of possession.”

Bemidji State led 14-13 at halftime after MSUM’s Wes Kramer kicked a 27-yard field goal at the end of the second quarter.

The Beavers tried to pull away, but never could. Avery Walker’s 14-yard run with 4:17 to go in the third quarter capped a quick, 6-play, 88-yard drive to put BSU up 21-13. But the Dragons answered at the start of the fourth quarter with an 11-play, 58-yard touchdown drive capped by a 3-yard run by Zayne Medhaug.

A two-point conversion would have tied things up at 21-21, but the Beavers snuffed out the run attempt to lead 21-19.

On their next possession, the Beavers got some breathing room when Lee ran in a 10-yard score with 8:46 to go.

Moorhead had its chances – it got its stops and the teams traded punts for much of the fourth quarter. The Dragons just ran out of time.

The Dragons had one last shot to make things interesting on its next-to-last possession with just less than three minutes to go, but they burned all their timeouts then gave the ball back to BSU on downs.

Walker scored his second touchdown of the game two plays later – a 3-yard run with 1:29 left – to put the game out of reach at 35-19.

Ryan Toelle and Adam Jiskra hooked up for a 9-yard touchdown pass as time expired.

“We needed to get a stop defensively at some point when we were trying to make that comeback, but we weren’t able to,” Moorhead head coach Steve Laqua said.

The Dragons started nine freshmen on offense Saturday, including Hodge, Montplasir, Jiskra and Medhaug.

“It was a good game right down to the end,” he said. “It felt like this young group took a step forward.”

Bemidji State takes on Minot State in their annual Beaver Bash game next weekend in Bemidji. A win against the North Dakota Beavers gives BSU at least a share of the NSIC Northern Division title – something that looked bleak after a 1-3 start.

“It’ll be fun,” said Lee, a senior from Elgin, Ill. “It‘s good for the seniors to play in that Beaver Bash. That game usually kicks off the season so this will be a change. But we have a title on the line, and it will be a good game. It’s a great way to go out as a Beaver.”

Jack Hittinger

Jack Hittinger is the sports editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. He is also the Bemidji State beat writer. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.

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