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FOOTBALL: Bemidji recovers from slow start to batter Fergus Falls 52-29

Bemidji quarterback James Hendricks powers ahead for yardage as Fergus Falls' Abram Aho (29) and Taylor Tenner (93) wrap him up in the first half Friday night. ZACH STICH | FERGUS FALLS DAILY JOURNAL1 / 2
Bemidji's Will Annette, left, helps tackle Fergus Falls' Jacob Fietek during the first half of their game Friday in Fergus Falls. The Lumberjacks came back to beat the Otters 52-29. ZACH STICH | FERGUS FALLS DAILY JOURNAL2 / 2

FERGUS FALLS -- Bemidji's football roster is filled with talented athletes who can impact an outcome in many ways.

Friday night at Fergus Falls the Lumberjacks received impact performances from many players and the result was a 52-29 victory over the Otters. Most of those impact performances did not surface until the third quarter, however, and BHS shockingly trailed 21-14 at intermission.

The break could not have come at a better time as the Jacks regrouped, came out with a different outlook and promptly scored 28 unanswered points.

The onslaught turned a 21-14 deficit into a 45-21 lead and powered Bemidji to its third win in as many starts.

"Mental focus was the biggest change from the first half to the second," BHS coach Troy Hendricks said during the post-game interview on KBUN. "We were flat in the first half. We just expected to come out here and have Fergus Falls roll over and play dead."

The Otters did just the opposite, as they struck for big plays in the opening two periods and gave the Lumberjacks all they could handle.

"We allowed them to make the big plays and, quite honestly, we didn't make any plays on defense in the first half," Hendricks said. "At halftime we made some adjustments, personnel-wise, scheme-wise and, more importantly, mentally.

"We shouldn't have had to have conversations like the one we had at halftime this early in the season."

Neither defense fared well in the first half as the Lumberjacks yielded a pair of long touchdown passes while the Otters allowed a handful of long gainers.

The home team also used trickery to help sustain the game's initial drive as the Otters faked a punt on fourth-and-8 at midfield and gained 11 yards.

That play set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Abram Aho and five minutes into the action Fergus Falls owned a 7-0 lead.

Bemidji, however, answered quickly as four runs gained 38 yards and a pass from James Hendricks to a streaking Jaylen Ingalls consumed the remaining 38 yards and evened the score at 7-7.

Both offenses sputtered in their next possessions. Fergus Falls advanced to Bemidji's 6-yard-line before stalling when the Jacks special teams unit blocked a 23-yard field goal attempt.

BHS took possession at the 20 and on the fifth play of the march Tanner Boes took a pitch and raced 64 yards for an apparent touchdown. The play was called back, however, because of a holding penalty and on the next play Hendricks threw an interception and the Otters took over at the Lumberjacks' 34.

It didn't take long for Fergus Falls to turn its good fortune into points. Bemidji's defense made an apparent stop at the 35-yard line and Fergus Falls was thwarted when it attempted another fake punt.

The Jacks, however, were whistled for an offside penalty to make it fourth-and-6 from the 30 and on the ensuing play Otter quarterback Austin Rund connected with Drew Pearson for a touchdown.

But the Jacks responded again as the ground game consumed 66 yards in 10 plays and Boes capped the drive with a 1-yard TD bolt.

Pearson gave the home team a 21-14 lead as he grabbed a 24-yard TD pass but with 21 seconds left in the half Will Annette gave Bemidji's offense a boost when the senior booted a 41-yard field goal to narrow the halftime gap to 21-17.

Bemidji's momentum carried into the third quarter and the Jacks turned a potential upset into another one-sided victory with 28 unanswered points.

"We played a perfect third quarter," Hendricks said.

Boes began the decisive run with a 2-yard TD a minute into the stanza and four minutes later Hendricks connected with Wakinyan Moore on a 10-yard TD pass.

After another stand by the BHS defense the Lumberjacks offense took over and Hendricks ran 17 yards to cap a six-play, 84-yard drive. Highlighting the march was a 32-yard connection between Hendricks and Ryan Hirt.

A play later Sam Bruestle intercepted a pass and returned it to the Otters 26. Hendricks wasted no time turning that opportunity into points as he teamed with Hirt on a 26-yard TD pass on the first play of the drive.

The third quarter ended with the Jacks enjoying a 45-21 advantage and less than two minutes into the fourth quarter Boes collected his third TD of the night with an 18-yard scamper.

James Hendricks completed seven of his 10 passes for 165 yards. He also paced the ground attack with 117 yards. Boes added 102 yards and collectively Bemidji's backs ran for 314 yards.

Next week the Lumberjacks head to Sartell in search of their fourth win. The coach, however, already had a warning for his athletes.

"The Sartell game will be a battle," Hendricks said. "They will line it up and punch you in the mouth. And that can give you fits when you don't focus."

Bemidji 52, Fergus Falls 29

Bemidji 7 10 28 7 - 52

Fergus Falls 7 14 0 8 - 29

First Quarter

FF-Aho, 5-run. PAT-Rausch kick. 4:59

B-Ingalls, 38-pass from Hendricks. PAT-Annette kick. 6:28

Second Quarter

FF-Pearson, 30-pass from Rund. PAT-Rausch kick. 2:15

B-Boes, 1-run. PAT-Annette kick. 5:19

FF-Pearson, 76-pass from Rund. Pat-Rausch kick. 7:00

B-Annette, 41-FG. 11:39

Third Quarter

B-Boes, 2-run. PAT-Annette kick. 1:10

B-Moore, 10-pass from Hendricks. PAT-Annette kick. 5:22

B-Hendricks, 17-run. PAT-Annette kick. 7:48

B-Hirt, 26-pass from Hendricks. PAT-Annette kick. 9:01

Fourth Quarter

B-Boes, 18-run. PAT-Annette kick. 1:31

FF-Safety (Bemidji fumble in end zone). 9:00

FF-Johnson, 55-run. PAT-kick failed. 10:32

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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