FOOTBALL: ‘Big-time’ finish keeps Bemidji on red-hot roll
BEMIDJI -- Isaiah Biehn could sense momentum fading in the fourth quarter for the Bemidji High School football team. And he knew he needed to make a play.
After Alexandria cut its deficit to 27-13 and forced a three-and-out to get the ball back, a deep pass to Zach Gundberg looked destined for another big chunk of yardage. But then Biehn soared in for a game-changing play.
“We’ve been practicing that play all week,” Biehn said. “They’ve done it basically every game. I’m just trying to stay disciplined as a (defensive back) and stick to my man. When I saw it, I knew I was going to pick it right away.”
The Lumberjacks recovered momentum, and then seized even more on a Colton Hinrichs interception one drive later, which was enough to preserve a 27-14 victory on Friday night at Chet Anderson Stadium.
“I thought our big-time players made big-time plays in big-time situations,” BHS head coach Bryan Stoffel said. “When we needed some momentum and we needed a play, it was our seniors tonight who made those plays. That’s what you’re looking for at this point in the season.”
Biehn snagged two interceptions on the day, and the senior ballhawk now has at least one pick in four straight games.
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Stoffel said. “He’s allowing his athletic abilities to take over. He’s a gifted kid, and you guys are starting to see it on Friday nights.”
Behind Biehn and senior running back Will Falldorf, who rushed for 219 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries, Bemidji improved to 4-1 and has clinched a top-two record within Section 8-5A. Postseason seedings are still to-be-determined, but the victory goes a long way in terms of securing a first-round bye as a top-two seed in the six-team section.
“We feel great,” Stoffel said. “We were hoping to be in the position, to lock in a top-two seed in the section and to get a first-round bye in the playoffs.”
Both offenses started out hot on Friday. First, Falldorf raced up the middle, untouched, for a 53-yard opening score. But Nolan Morical answered for the Cardinals (2-3) with a juke and a broken tackle for a smooth 10-yard TD rush.
Alexandria had a 7-6 edge due to a missed BHS extra point, but the Jacks made up for it when Falldorf scored from seven yards out and Hinrichs added the 2-point conversion on an outside pitch.
Bemidji was marching again late in the second quarter, but Will Heydt recovered a fumble on the 12-yard line to seemingly stop the Lumberjacks in their tracks. Not to be outdone, though, Biehn’s instincts kicked in as he soared up for a deep interception on the next play, setting up the BHS offense for redemption.
Brett Tharaldson and Jacob Kelly did the rest, as the former found the latter for a toe-tapping 14-yard touchdown pass in the closing seconds of the half.
“When our offense struggled, our defense backed them up,” Biehn said. “Or the offense had a big play after (the defense) let up an 80-yard drive right off the bat. We fixed stuff, and it’s awesome to see how each group benefits.”
Bemidji brought a 21-7 lead into the intermission, which grew to 27-7 on Falldorf’s third touchdown. Meanwhile, after Alexandria's opening drive, the Lumberjack defense didn’t allow another first down until the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals finally made things interesting early in the fourth, as Kristen Hoskins raced away for a 51-yard catch and run to bring Alex within 27-14. The defense forced a three-and-out, giving the ball back to the Cardinals with 8 minutes, 50 seconds to play, but then Biehn elevated for his interception that turned the tides and provided some relief for a BHS team that suddenly needed it.
“When I make the play, it’s a big play for all of us,” Biehn said. “I’m proud of our guys for sticking in there when adversity hit.”
After Hinrichs’ ensuing pick, Bemidji offense ran out the clock over the final 3:56.
The win sets up a marquee regular season finale against Moorhead, the lone undefeated team in Section 8-5A. The top seed in the section may very well be up for grabs.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11, in Moorhead.
Bemidji 27, Alexandria 14
ALX 7 0 0 7 -- 14
BHS 6 15 6 0 -- 27
First quarter -- BHS TD, Falldorf 53-yard rush (DeClusin PAT missed), 6-0 BHS; ALX TD, Morical 10-yard rush (Sansted PAT), 7-6 ALX.
Second quarter -- BHS TD, Falldorf 7-yard rush (Hinrichs 2-pt. conversion), 14-7 BHS; BHS TD, Kelly 14-yard catch from Tharaldson (DeClusin PAT), 21-7 BHS.
Third quarter -- BHS TD, Falldorf 5-yard rush (DeClusin PAT missed), 27-7 BHS.
Fourth quarter -- ALX TD, Hoskins 51-yard catch from Steffenmeier (Sansted PAT), 27-14 BHS.