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Bemidji's dream season ends with 17-10 loss to Rocori in state championship game

Bemidji assistant coach Steve Thompson consoles seniors Brandon Larson, left, and James Bofferding after Rocori defeated Bemidji 17-10 in the Class 4A state football championship game on Saturday at the Metrodome. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper1 / 5
Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper Senior Brandon Larson, right, celebrates a first quarter interception alongside Brady Schmidt, left.2 / 5
Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper Bemidji's Andrew Street (27) and Chase Gruber (75) tackle Rocori quarterback Nate Meyer during Saturday's Class 4A title game at the Metrodome. Rocori won 17-10.3 / 5
Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper Bemidji's Alex Fenson catches a pass for a first down early in the Class 4A state football championship game.4 / 5
Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper Brady Schmidt, center, eludes the Rocori defense and runs for a first down during a fourth quarter. Bemidji kicked a field goal at the end of the drive to make the score 17-105 / 5

Brady Schmidt stood silent and stunned and then dropped to the ground following Saturday's Class 4A state championship football game against Rocori. Around him, the Spartans stormed the field to celebrate their 17-10 victory, but it was too painful for Schmidt to watch.

Schmidt's Lumberjack teammates were equally stunned by Saturday's disappointing result. For some, the tears were impossible to hide; for others the shock of Saturday's loss left a scar that will take time to heal.

In the end, however, all of the Lumberjack players, coaches and fans will be able to fondly look back on a glorious season that ended in the state championship game at the Metrodome.

"Rocori came in with a great defensive game plan with the blitzes and offensively we just didn't have it tonight," said BHS receiver and defensive back Cody Rutledge. "But we left everything on the field. Our defense was solid and offensively we tried our best. But we just couldn't get the job done."

Bemidji dominated the statistics as the Lumberjacks outgained the Spartans 301-111 and enjoyed a possession advantage of 11 minutes.

Those statistics didn't mean much, however, as BHS turned the ball over four times, had a punt blocked and managed only one interception on defense.

"Defensively we played pretty good football but when you have a punt blocked and a have a pick-6 against you, that's tough to overcome," said Jacks head coach Troy Hendricks. "And Rocori was aggressive on defense. They may have been a little more physical than we were."

Bemidji scored on the game's opening drive as the Jacks went 74 yards in eight plays and capped the march with a superb 25-yard catch in traffic by Carey Woods.

The early score energized the huge contingent of Bemidji fans, who had visions of last week's offensive explosion in the 45-26 win over Mankato West.

But Rocori had other ideas.

Except for the opening drive, the Spartans were tough and opportunistic on defense and those qualities resulted in short fields for Rocori's offense.

Following a Bemidji fumble early in the second quarter, Rocori went 50 yards in eight plays to score its first touchdown. That tied the score 7-7 but, considering that Bemidji had been able to move down the field on their initial possessions, it seemed that Bemidji would be able to make up for that mistake.

In the final minute of the first half, however, another Bemidji turnover mortally wounded all who belong to Lumberjack nation.

With 4:19 remaining in the second period BHS started a drive on its own 7-yard line. Trying to work their way to points in the final minutes, the Lumberjacks methodically advanced the ball to the 45 where they faced a second down.

On the next play Rocori's defense chased Bemidji quarterback Mitchell Hendricks in the backfield, but after a long scramble, Hendricks tried to pass to Carey Woods along the left sideline. Rocori's Sean Terres, however, stepped in front of Woods for the interception and 53 yards later the Spartans were ahead 14-7.

"Our communication was off all night," said Andrew Street who saw time as a fullback in addition to his defensive linebacker duties.

On their first drive of the third quarter the Lumberjacks self-destructed again, this time with a blocked punt.

The Jacks defense stiffened, however, and allowed only a 31-yard field goal but those three points proved costly down the stretch.

Bemidji answered the field goal with one of its own as Kyle Fodness split the uprights from 30 yards out with 9:13 remaining in the game.

But the Lumberjacks would come no closer.

Another interception, this one at the Rocori 43 by Nate Meyer with 5:12 to play, stopped another promising Bemidji drive and the game ended with 22 seconds to play when the Lumberjacks failed to convert on a fourth-and-14 at the Spartans 44.

Bemidji ended its memorable season 12-1 and gave its fans a year to remember.

"I'm going to remember everything about this season," said senior linebacker James Bofferding. "I'm going to remember all of the good times together. This loss was very tough to take but like coach tells us, if something goes wrong you have to hit the re-set button and move on. We'll move on."

Despite the loss the Lumberjacks fans gave their players a standing ovation during the awards ceremony and that support is something that will stay with the players and coaches.

"We love our fans," coach Hendricks said. "We are sorry that we didn't bring home the state title but we did our best."

Bemidji 7 0 0 3 - 10

Rocori 0 14 3 0 - 17

First quarter

B-Woods, 25-pass from Hendricks. PAT-Fodness kick. 3:02

Second quarter

R-Pedroza, 27-pass from Meyer. PAT-Pedroza kick. 3:58

R-Terres, 53-pass interception return. PAT-Pedroza kick. 11:04

Third quarter

R-Pedroza, 31-FG. 8:40

Fourth quarter

B-Fodness, 29-FG. 2:47

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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