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Rutledge fills in at QB to lead unbeaten Jacks past St. Cloud Tech 35-6

Bemidji quarterback Cody Rutledge scrambles to elude St. Cloud Tech linebacker Matt Brettingen before completing a pass to Alex Fenson for a key first down in the second quarter Friday night. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Cody Rutledge probably is the most versatile senior athlete at Bemidji High School and that versatility was on display for all to see Friday night when he was pressed into the quarterback duties for the Lumberjacks football team and led the Jacks to a 35-6 home victory over St. Cloud Tech.

"Cody is a remarkable athlete," said BHS coach Troy Hendricks. "And he proved that again Friday."

The Lumberjacks were forced to battle St. Cloud Tech, which entered Friday's game with a 5-1 record, without the services of starting quarterback Mitchell Hendricks and starting tailback Brady Schmidt. Both were suspended for one game for breaking school policy Friday.

Also hampering Bemidji's efforts was the loss of Zach Declusin nine minutes into the first quarter.

While he was available Declusin was unstoppable as he gained 61 yards on eight rushes. His night ended prematurely, however, when we dislocated his left elbow after scoring his second touchdown of the night on a 7-yard run. Declusin was sent to the hospital during the game for X-rays and further tests.

"Friday was a very emotional day for me," coach Hendricks said. "When we lost Zach to the injury this football team was facing a great deal of adversity.

"But this team responded very well to that adversity."

Leading the charge was Rutledge. Normally a spot receiver and an anchor in the defensive secondary, Rutledge added the quarterback duties to his night's work. And his debut was impressive.

"I learned that I was going to start a couple hours before game time," Rutledge said. "I was nervous and I was excited. But I felt prepared."

Bemidji lost the coin toss and St. Cloud Tech chose to have the wind at its back to start the game. After the kick the Jacks began the opening drive at their own 19.

"Before the game I asked Cody if he was ready to be our starting quarterback and he said 'heck yes,'" the coach said. "We made some adjustments to our play calling and began by running a simple offense with our base plays," Hendricks said.

"The hardest part of being the quarterback is knowing where everybody goes on every play," Rutledge said. "We watered down the play calling for me but the offensive line made it easier for me because they played great football."

Behind that offensive line the Lumberjacks went 81 yards on their opening drive, a march capped by Declusin's 4-yard touchdown.

Kyle Fodness traded his soccer uniform for shoulder pads and a helmet and booted the extra point.

Bemidji's defense forced a 3-and-out on Tech's opening possession and a 25-yard punt return by Rutledge combined with a late hit enabled BHS to start its second series at the Tech 41. Mitch Brown gained 15 yards on the first play and a facemask call advanced the ball to the Tigers 13. Declusin took over from there, gaining six yards on the first carry and finding the end zone from seven yards out on the second.

Unfortunately, he suffered a dislocated elbow when he awkwardly hit the ground after the tackle and his night was over.

"Scoring right away on those two drives gave the team and gave me confidence," Rutledge said. "And we never lost that confidence the rest of the game."

Rutledge was at his best in the second quarter as he orchestrated a pair of drives that he personally capped with touchdown runs. The first was a 2-yard sneak midway through the period and the second was a shifty quarterback scramble to the left when he couldn't find an open receiver and had to improvise.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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