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INDOOR FOOTBALL: Axemen fall to four-time defending champs Sioux Falls 66-42

Bemidji Axemen quarterback Terence Owens (2) drops back to pass as Axemen lineman Sini Tauauve'a blocks for him during the first half of their game Saturday night at the Sanford Center. The Axemen lost to the Sioux Falls Storm 66-42. Kristopher Lodes | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — Little went right for the Bemidji Axemen in their regular season-opener.

Four-time defending Indoor Football League champions Sioux Falls Storm got out to a big lead and beat the Axemen 66-42 at the Sanford Center.

“When you get a team like that coming in, you have to understand where you're at as a team,” Axemen head coach Dixie Wooten said.

The Axemen easily made their way down the field on the opening drive of the game and finished it off with a four-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Balentine, giving Bemidji an early 6-0 lead after a blocked extra point.

But that was the last time the Axemen (0-1) would lead.

Terry James received a touchdown and Tory Harrison ran one in from eight yards out to take the lead for Sioux Falls (1-0). The first quarter ended 15-6 in the Storm’s favor.

After focusing on a good long passing game in the first, Sioux Falls slowed things down in the second and gave the ball to Harrison, who finished with 96 yards and four touchdowns.

A Martavio Young four-yard keeper, the Harrison run, an 11-yard reception by Brandon Farrell-Johnson and a Parke Douglass field goal were the scoring plays resulting in the 23 points the Axemen surrendered in the second quarter.

Bemidji added a touchdown in the second when Jajuan Harley intercepted a Young pass and returned it 22 yards to the endzone.

The halftime score was 38-12 Storm, but the momentum shifted slightly to Bemidji’s favor in the third.

“In the second half I feel like we kicked it in a little bit and kind of pushed the envelope and scored some points,” Wooten said.

The Storm marched down and scored easily to open the second half. But after being hit with the ball on the kickoff, the Axemen recovered at the Sioux Falls one yard line. Terrance Owens kept the snap on a draw and found the endzone to make it 44-18.

Bemidji’s luck continued when the Storm fumbled the kickoff and the Axemen recovered in the endzone to shrink the deficit to 44-22.

That was where the Axemen’s fortunes would end as the Storm offense was too much for the Bemidji defense to handle.

After an injury to Owens early in the fourth, E.J. White completed a two-yard touchdown pass to Josh Jarboe.

Young went 12-for-17 for 145 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

Owens led the Axemen with 102 passing yards, a rushing touchdown and a passing touchdown. White managed 60 passing yards and two passing touchdowns.

“E.J. came in and did some pretty good things, but as soon as Terrance gets back in the mix, he'll be back in to play,” Wooten said of the team’s quarterback situation.

The Axemen will be back in action Friday, March 13, when they’ll host the Iowa Barnstormers at 7:05 p.m. at the Sanford Center.