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UPDATED: Bemidji endures snow for dominant state quarterfinal victory

Bemidji High School sophomore running back James Williams celebrates his second touchdown of the night in Friday’s state quarterfinal game against Cambridge-Isanti at Husky Stadium in St. Cloud. (Ryan Pietruszewski | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 4
Bemidji High School sophomore running back James Williams leaps into the end zone for his second touchdown of the night in Friday’s state quarterfinal game against Cambridge-Isanti at Husky Stadium in St. Cloud. (Ryan Pietruszewski | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 4
Bemidji High School senior running back Caleb Grant (4) stiff arms a Cambridge-Isanti defender during Saturday’s state quarterfinal game at Husky Stadium in St Cloud. (Ryan Pietruszewski | Bemidji Pioneer)3 / 4
Bemidji High School senior quarterback Jacob Beberg (2) hands the ball off to running back Caleb Grant (4) during the Lumberjacks’ state quarterfinal game against Cambridge-Isanti on Saturday at Husky Stadium in St. Cloud. (Ryan Pietruszewski | Bemidji Pioneer)4 / 4

ST. CLOUD -- In the cold, snowy conditions at the Class 5A state quarterfinal game at Husky Stadium on Saturday night, the winner would be determined by who could run the ball more effectively.

Bemidji made the result clear by the end of the first half for a 38-7 lead and cruised through the rest of the game for a 51-15 win over Cambridge-Isanti.

“I’m just super excited for these kids,” BHS head coach Troy Hendricks said. “I’m surprised, but yet not, by how physical we played. We were able to out-physical Cambridge, and I didn’t know that that would be the case. When we can out-physical somebody and we’ve got all the skill players on offense and defensively, they didn’t really have an answer to our scheme we had set up. The boys executed it to perfection. It was a great win for Lumberjack football.”

Lumberjacks running backs James Williams and Caleb Grant pounded the rock for a combined five touchdowns in the first half. Williams opened the scoring four minutes in and added another by the end of the first quarter for a 12-0 Bemidji lead.

The Bluejackets (7-4) cut it to 12-7 with a 55-yard touchdown pass to Luke Malamisuro early in the second quarter, but it was all Lumberjacks (10-1) from there until the break.

After the teams exchanged fumbles deep in C-I territory, Williams punched in his third of the night from four yards out to stretch the lead to 19-7.

With 5 minutes, 25 seconds left in the second quarter, Nick Mutchler picked off a Cambridge pass and returned it to the 1 yard line, setting Grant up for a quick touchdown run.

Before the half, Jacob Beberg carried in a nine-yard keeper and Williams caught a touchdown pass in the waning seconds for the 38-7 lead.

Cambridge failed on an onside kick attempt to open the third frame, giving way for Bemidji’s offense to keep churning upfield. Less than two minutes later, Williams crossed the goal line for the fifth time, and the Jacks led 44-7.

“It was just a good job by my teammates,” Williams said. “My linemen did a really good job blocking, and our defense stepped up.”

The Lumberjacks seemed more concerned about running out the clock than scoring more points over the last 10 minutes of the third quarter, but Nick Snell got in on the action with 29 seconds left with a three-yard touchdown run on fourth and goal.

The lone fourth-quarter touchdown came from the Cambridge offense, when Dylan Jones found a lane around the left side for a touchdown from midfield. From there, the clock continued to run until the final buzzer signaled the 51-15 Jacks win.

Williams finished the game with 71 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns on seven carries and added a seven-yard receiving touchdown, while Grant rushed 20 times for 141 yards and a touchdown.

“I just thought Caleb Grant had a hell of a game,” Hendricks said. “He was breaking arm-tackles and running like a beast. James was good, but our offense rolls with Caleb doing what he did. He set everything else up.”

Beberg was 4-for-8 passing for 58 yards and a touchdown and ran six times for 48 yards and a score.

Will Falldorf took over most of the ground game for Bemidji after the game was already in hand, and he matched Grant with 141 yards on 16 carries.

With the victory, the Bemidji advances to the Class 5A state semifinals, where it will take on St. Thomas Academy (11-0). Kickoff between the Jacks and St. Thomas is set for 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

“(Before tonight’s game), I said that there would be a team in this game that would be complacent with where they were at and what they accomplished, and there was going to be another team that was going to be hungry,” Hendricks said. “Which one are we going to be? And I think they’re hungry to continue on and get to U.S. Bank.”

The Cadets topped Tartan, 35-14, in their quarterfinal Saturday to advance, but Hendricks said the Jacks aren’t concerned who is their opponent.

“I think they’re going to be confident with whoever they play right now, no matter if it’s St. Thomas Academy or one of the other teams,” he said. “I don’t know that the opponent is something that they’re going to be worried about. (We’ll) just make sure we have a great week of practice and take it one day at a time. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to get better each day. We’ve had that attitude all season long. Let’s continue to go with that attitude.”

On what the win says about Bemidji moving forward to the semifinals, Williams said, “that we’re a great team, and we have more to come.”

Bemidji 51, Cambridge-Isanti 15

BEM 12 26 13 0 -- 51

C-I 0 7 0 8 -- 15