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Bemidji HS football: Moe's interception on final play seals victory for Jacks over Sauk Rapids-Rice

Bemidji coach Troy Hendricks wasn't surprised that Friday's football game against Sauk Rapids-Rice went down to the final play. In fact, he was almost expecting it.

"This game could have gone either way, just like our last two games," Hendricks said after the Lumberjacks edged the Storm 20-16 on a beautiful fall evening at Chet Anderson Stadium.

"All week long we tried to tell our kids not to take Sauk Rapids lightly. Their record may have been only 3-2 but they are a tough, hard-nosed football team and one that is well coached."

The Jacks, who improved to 5-1, trailed 10-7 at intermission and that deficit carried into the fourth quarter.

Both offenses, however, traded blows in the final stanza. BHS scored five seconds into the period to take a 13-10 advantage but Sauk Rapids-Rice countered with a touchdown three minutes later.

Trailing 16-13 Bemidji answered with a 63-yard drive which was capped by Kevin Nelson's 13-yard touchdown with 5:16 to play. Jon Henry's PAT conversion provided a 4-point lead at 20-16 and the Bemidji defense made the lead stand up.

The Storm's final threat fizzled on the game's last play when Forrest Moe made a diving interception of a 46-yard pass intended for Aaron Sutliffe at the front right end zone pylon.

With injuries infiltrating Bemidji's running backs, Kevin Nelson had to play a major role Friday. Jesse Eck and Zach Declusin both were on the sidelines with injuries Friday and in the fourth quarter Brady Devescovi joined them with a shoulder ailment.

Nelson has been nursing a bruised thigh the past few weeks but he was back to full strength Friday.

And the timing could not have been any better.

Nelson rushed 25 times for 123 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns, including the game-winner in the fourth quarter. There was nothing subtle when Nelson took the handoff as his style featured pure power.

"Kevin ran hard and that's what we expected of him this year," Hendricks said. "He finally is healthy and he stepped up big for us."

Sauk Rapids-Rice had what Hendricks termed a "vanilla" offense which was based on Erik Bjork and Aaron Sutliffe taking pitches and running either right or left.

The duo was difficult to stop and because of their ability to find the gaps and shed would-be tacklers, the Storm manufactured a number of extended drives.

But they couldn't finish all of them.

"We were a little more dimensional on offense and defensively we made the stops when we had to," Hendricks said. "They had a great running game but it's hard to go the length of the field with every series. We were able to get them into third-and-long and stop them just enough times to win the game."

The visitors opened the scoring with a safety when Nelson was stuffed midway through the opening quarter but with two minutes to play in the stanza Nelson gave the Jacks a 7-2 lead with a 2-yard run.

Sauk Rapids-Rice regained the lead with 4:31 to play in the half when Bjork scored from five yards out.

The 10-7 score stood until five seconds into the fourth quarter when Ben Hengel out-jumped a pair of defenders for a 22-yard TD catch but Henry's kick failed and the Jacks settled for a 13-10 lead.

The Storm needed only three minutes to answer, however, and Sutliffe had the honors as he scored from five yards out.

Bemidji delivered the knockout blow on its next possession when Nelson capped a 63-yard drive with his 13-yard power run up the middle. Nelson ran four times in the drive for 40 yards.

Friday's contest ended Bemidji's home schedule. The Jacks will conclude the regular season with games at St. Cloud Tech (Oct. 15) and Sartell (Oct. 20).

Bemidji, however, is in line to be the top seed in the Section 7-4A playoffs and if the Lumberjacks accomplish that they could host two tournament games.

Sauk Rapids-Rice 2 8 0 6 - 16

Bemidji 0 7 0 13 - 20


First Quarter

SRR-Safety, tackle in end zone. 4:37

Second Quarter

B-Nelson, 2-run. PAT-Henry kick. 2:07

SRR-Bjork, 5-run. PAT-Sutliffe run. 7:29

Third Quarter

No scoring.

Fourth Quarter

B-Hengel, 22-pass from Hendricks. PAT-kick failed. 0:05

SRR-Sutliffe, 5-run. PAT-kick failed. 3:19

B-Nelson, 13-run. PAT-Henry kick. 6:44

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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