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Bemidji HS football homecoming: Brainerd tops Lumberjacks 33-28

The cliché "a game of inches" is overused in the sports vernacular but Friday night when Bemidji hosted Brainerd at Chet Anderson Stadium the phrase actually told the tale. And the result was a 33-28 Brainerd victory.

With 2:14 remaining and the game on the line Brainerd kept possession after a measurement showed they had made a first down by less than an inch.

A minute later the roles were reversed. Bemidji trailed 33-28 and needed one-half yard on a fourth-down carry at the Brainerd 35. Once again the sticks were summoned. This time, however, the spot didn't go Bemidji's way and the Lumberjacks were an inch shy of the first down.

Brainerd took possession and ran out the clock.

Prior to Friday's contest both coaches knew they would be in a battle. And the teams did not disappoint.

Brainerd took the opening kickoff and drove 64 yards in six plays for the initial touchdown. Quarterback Mitchell Mclain went the final 23 yards.

The Jacks countered on their first drive and wide receiver Ben Hengel capped the 71-yard march with a 24-yard reception of Mitchell Hendricks' pass in the end zone.

Jon Henry booted the conversion and the Jacks were on top 7-6.

The visitors responded with another 65-yard drive, a march which ended with Jordan Hayes' 5-yard run. Mclain ran for the 2-point conversion and the Warriors were ahead 14-7.

Bemidji's defense and special teams controlled play in the second quarter and with 4:01 remaining in the half the BHS offense made the most of Brandon Larson's interception.

On the first play after the pick Cody Rutledge connected with Carey Woods on a 38-yard halfback pass for a first down at the 1-yard line. Two plays later Zach Declusin blasted in for the score.

The Lumberjacks pooched the ensuing kickoff and Rutledge recovered the onside kick at the Brainerd 30.

Hengel caught a 24-yard pass on the initial play of the drive and four plays later Hendricks sneaked in from the 1-yard line.

Henry was successful on both PAT attempts in the period and Bemidji owned a 21-14 lead at intermission.

Brainerd evened the score 4:39 into the third quarter when Hayes raced along the right sideline for a 36-yard touchdown and Zachary Cadwell kicked the extra point.

BHS countered on its next possession, however, and a 10-yard Hengel TD catch climaxed a six-play, 54-yard drive. Henry's kick upped the lead to 28-21.

Brainerd's offense continued its attack in the fourth period and 3:33 into the stanza Hayes scored his third touchdown of the night, this one from one yard out. The Warriors went for the lead instead of the tie but their try for the 2-point conversion failed when the Lumberjacks defense converged on Hayes and stopped him a yard short of the goal line.

Bemidji's offense could not generate a first down on the next possession and the visitors took over at their 36-yard-line. Brainerd advanced to the Bemidji 17 with 2:14 to play and faced a fourth-and-2. Hayes got the call and made the first down by less than an inch.

On the next play he swept the right side for a touchdown.

With 1:23 to play the Lumberjacks faced their fourth-and-1 at the Brainerd 25. Declusin got the call but the defense was waiting and stopped him an inch short of the first down.

Friday's loss was Bemidji's first in four games. Brainerd improved to 4-0.

The Lumberjacks return to action Oct. 2 with a 3 p.m. game at Alexandria.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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