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Bemidji sputters in second half, falls to Brainerd 40-23

Tanner Boes breaks through the Brainerd defense for a touchdown run Friday during the game at Brainerd. KELLY HUMPHREY | BRAINERD DISPATCH

BRAINERD – It was a miserable night for football Friday as a steady rain and wind gusts over 40 miles per hour made things difficult for the players and the fans.

And Bemidji added to its misery in the second half as Brainerd outscored the Lumberjacks 34-9 in the final two quarters and sent BHS back home with a 40-23 loss.

“We just didn’t respond to the adversity that Brainerd gave us or the conditions or whatever was the cause,” said Jacks coach Troy Hendricks whose team dropped to 2-2. “Right now the kids are playing one half of football but they are not playing the second half.”

As it did last week at home against Duluth East Bemidji dominated play in the first 24 minutes. The Lumberjacks only could manage a 14-6 lead at the break, however, because penalties stalled two promising drives and a defensive holding call on Bemidji set the stage for Brainerd’s only first-half score.

The home team also had its problems in the first half but the Warriors enjoyed themselves in the final two periods.

Thanks to a pair of Brainerd miscues early in the action, however, BHS controlled the field position and the scoreboard. After forcing a BHS punt on the game’s initial possession the Warriors fumbled the return and Bemidji pounced on the loose ball at the Brainerd 19.

A pair of runs gained three yards but BHS quarterback James Hendricks connected with Brady Schmidt on a 14-yard pass to give the Jacks a first and goal at the Brainerd 2-yard line.

On the next play Tanner Boes followed his line into the end zone. Will Annette’s kick gave Bemidji a 7-0 lead 4:36 into the contest.

Bemidji’s defense stymied the Warriors on their first possession but Brainerd compounded its problems when it faked a punt at its own 25 yard line. An incomplete pass on the play gave the Jacks great field position at the Brainerd 25 and two Tanner Boes runs later BHS was on top 14-0.

Bemidji’s next drive was stopped by a pair of offensive holding penalties and on their next drive the Jacks shot themselves in the foot with two motion infractions.

The latter resulted in a fourth and eight situation from the BHS 33 and on the ensuing punt Connor McNallan had to go to his knee to field the snap and the play was dead at the Lumberjacks 18.

Brainerd took advantage of the break and two plays later Cole Smith caught a 12-yard TD pass from Luke Boran.

The PAT boot was wide and Bemidji owned a 14-6 lead that carried into the break.

But the score switched momentum to Brainerd’s sideline and in the third quarter the Warriors went to work.

Conor Gessell took Luke Boran’s pass and raced 53 yards for a TD three minutes into the stanza to draw the home team within 14-12. BHS extended its lead to 17-12 when Will Annette booted a 31-yard field goal with 5:32 to play and the Jacks maintained that 17-12 cushion heading into the final period.

But the tide turned quickly in the closing 12 minutes.

Gessell capped a 65-yard drive with a 5-yard TD run a minute into the quarter and, following a Bemidji interception deep in its own territory, the Warriors increased their lead to 27-17 when Boran ran in from 12 yards out.

Hendricks brought the Jacks within 27-23 with a 7-yard run but Brainerd closed the curtain with Gessell’s 79-yard TD run a minute later and Davis’ touchdown scamper with 4:34 to play.

Bemidji will play three of its final four games at home. The streak begins Friday when the Jacks entertain Grand Rapids for Homecoming.

Brainerd 40, Bemidji 23

Bemidji                      14  0  3    6  -  23

Brainerd                      0  6  6  18  -  40

First Quarter

Bem-Boes, 2-run. Pat-Annette kick. 4:36

Bem-Boes, 20-run. Pat-Annette kick. 6:20

Second Quarter

Bra-Smith, 12-pass from Boran. PAT-kick wide. 2:57

Third Quarter

Bra-Gessell, 53-pass from Boran. PAT-Pass fail. 2:57

Bem-Annette, 31-FG. 6:28

Fourth Quarter

Bra-Gessell, 5-run. PAT-Gessell, pass from Boran. 0:59

Bra-Boran, 12-run. PAT-McElfresh kick. 3:33

Bem-Hendricks, 7-run. PAT-kick blocked. 6:39

Bra-Gessell, 79-run. PAT-McElfresh kick. 7:26

Bra-Davis, 20-run. PAT-run fail. 9:22

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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