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FOOTBALL: Jacks claw back late, but Alexandria holds on for the win

The Lumberjacks made it interesting late with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to cut what was a 38-7 deficit to 38-20.

091521.S.BP.BHSFOOT Caden Bolte
Bemidji senior Caden Bolte (24) gets a big hit on Alexandria's Kristen Hoskins after Hoskins' first-quarter catch on Sept. 10, 2021, in Alexandria. (Eric Morken / Forum News Service)

ALEXANDRIA -- Last week, the Bemidji High School football team lost 24-0 to Rogers.

This Friday, they trailed Alexandria 24-0 at the half. But though they faced a steep climb to do so, the Lumberjacks made it interesting late with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to cut what was a 38-7 deficit to 38-20.

Still, Alexandria's sizable lead was too much for the Jacks to bounce back from, and they were unable to put any more points on the board, falling to the Cardinals 38-20.

Head coach Bryan Stoffel had a familiar message for his team after the contest.

"My message was that, you know, we need to do a better job of preparing, we need to do a better job of executing," Stoffel said on KBUN after the game. "And when we've shown glimpses of doing what we're supposed to do on both sides of the ball, we can be competitive and we can move the ball on offense and we can make stops on defense.

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"But when we don't do that, obviously, we can see the result of that as well. So it's kind of like two weeks in a row, same message. We got to get back to the drawing board again and we got to find a way for us to execute what we're supposed to do consistently."

Those glimpses included a solid drive to start the second half. Junior Ethan Biehn returned the opening kick to the Alexandria 36, giving Bemidji excellent starting field position. From there, starting quarterback Jack Larson and running back Gemini Ellis combined to move the Lumberjacks to the 4-yard line. After a loss on second-and-goal, Larson took it in himself from the 6-yard line on third-and-goal to give BHS its first score of the season.

From there, the Cardinals seized the momentum right back. Quarterback Carter Steffensmeier recorded back-to-back rushing touchdowns to push the deficit to 31.

But Bemidji bounced back with a strip-sack by Nate Schwinghammer deep in Alexandria territory. Barrick Nelson recovered the ensuing fumble and took it in for the score, cutting the lead to 38-14.

091521.S.BP.BHSFOOT Jacob Kelly
Bemidji senior Jacob Kelly looks for open space against the defense of Alexandria's Wyatt Odland on Sept. 10, 2021, in Alexandria. (Eric Morken / Forum News Service)

On the next Alexandria possession, the Cardinals tried to punt on fourth down, but a bad snap and subsequent recovery by Alex punter Mason Teaser gave the Jacks the ball on Alex's 1-yard line. Quarterback Hunter Brodina, in for Larson, punched it in to give the Lumberjacks a glimmer of hope.

Alas, that was the end of the scoring for BHS. Despite forcing another punt from Alex, this time a clean attempt, and getting the ball at their own 47-yard line, Bemidji bogged down on offense, going four and out and turning the ball over on downs.

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The two teams traded punts once more, giving Bemidji the ball back with 3:35 to go. But despite a great pass from Brodina to Biehn on third down, the Lumberjacks were flagged for an ineligible receiver downfield, negating their last gasp. Two unsuccessful plays later, BHS turned the ball over on downs and the Cardinals ran out the clock from there.

With the substitution of Brodina for Larson, Stoffel appeared to open the mantle of starting quarterback up for grabs. He confirmed that after the game.

"We wanted to give Hunter a shot and see what he had too," Stoffel said. "And so I would imagine going into next week we'll have both guys competing for the opportunity to be our starter on Friday and whoever has a better week of preparation will be the starter."

Things may be in flux for Bemidji at signal-caller, but the Jacks showed enough flashes to build on for next week's matchup with Moorhead. After being shut out against Rogers, BHS finally broke the seal on the scoreboard. Its defense forced two turnovers, including an interception by Dakotah Canty in the third quarter.

There's plenty of work to do, but the Lumberjacks built a foundation with some moments of inspired play Friday night. If used correctly, it could be the foundation on which they lay the bricks that will help them become the football team they envisioned at the start of the season.

Alexandria 38, Bemidji 20

BHS 0 0 7 13 -- 20

ALEX 3 21 14 0 -- 38

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First quarter -- ALEX FG, Sansted 27-yard kick, 3-0 ALEX.

Second quarter -- ALEX TD, Hoskins 3-yard run (Sansted PAT), 10-0 ALEX; ALEX TD, Schoenrock 12-yard catch from Steffensmeier (Sansted PAT), 17-0 ALEX; ALEX TD, Gundberg 15-yard catch from Steffensmeier (Sansted PAT), 24-0 ALEX.

Third quarter -- BHS TD, Larson 6-yard run (Peterson PAT), 24-7 ALEX; ALEX TD, Steffensmeier 3-yard run (Sansted PAT), 31-7 ALEX; ALEX TD, Steffensmeier 5-yard run (Sansted PAT), 38-7 ALEX.

Fourth quarter -- BHS TD, Nelson fumble recovery (Peterson PAT), 38-14 ALEX; BHS TD, Brodina 1-yard run (Peterson PAT no good), 38-20 ALEX.

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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