FOOTBALL: The Axe -- and much more -- up for grabs in Moorhead

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The Lumberjacks run onto the field ahead of Friday’s game against Alexandria at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- There will be no shortage of incentives in Moorhead on Wednesday night.

The Bemidji High School football team wraps up the regular season against one of its biggest rivals on the Spuds’ home turf, and there will be as much on the line as ever come kickoff.

Most importantly, Section 8-5A’s No. 1 seed will likely go to the victor.

Moorhead comes in at a perfect 5-0 and sits atop the Class 5A rankings with Monday’s initial release of the QRF rankings on The Spuds also have the state’s best scoring offense (44.6 points per game) and the best scoring defense (3.6 ppg) among 5A schools. The defense has pitched three shutouts, including against Rogers and Brainerd in their past two games.

The Lumberjacks, meanwhile, are 4-1 and have lost only to No. 2-ranked Andover in the season opener. The BHS offense ranks 10th (31.0 ppg) and the defense ranks 5th (10.0 ppg) among all Class 5A teams.


Both Moorhead and Bemidji have clinched a top-two record within the section, no matter how Wednesday’s regular season finale shakes out. The six-team section tournament will grant first-round byes to the top two seeds, while the high seed will host each game throughout the playoffs.

Not to be forgotten, however, is that a rivalry trophy -- and the accompanying bragging rights -- are also at stake. The Axe, which is still less than a decade old, has been in the Lumberjacks’ possession just once. That came thanks to a 2018 regular season win, the program’s first victory over the Spuds since 2012, but possession returned to Moorhead after a BHS loss in 2019.

The Spuds have owned the series of late, winning eight of the last 10 matchups. Although Bemidji won twice in 2018, Moorhead returned the favor with two victories in 2019 -- including the Section 8-5A championship game. The Spuds also lead the all-time series 42-18.

Moorhead is even riding the high of national exposure, as quarterback Trey Feeney and wide receiver Jacqui Fitzpatrick earned the No. 4 spot on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays on Friday night. The highlight came in a 48-0 win over Brainerd in which Fitzpatrick caught a goal-line fade and acrobatically got his hand in bounds before the rest of his body landed out of the end zone.

The Jacks will look to create some highlights of their own Wednesday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. and is the only game in the state featuring two top-10 teams from Class 5A.

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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