BEMIDJI -- Just as it did to Brainerd at Chet Anderson Stadium, the Bemidji High School football team marched up confidently to Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox on Friday.
The Lumberjacks sang the school song into the night, celebrating a dominant 23-0 win and ringing in their reclamation of Babe’s Bell.
“I’m just happy for the seniors to have the opportunity to talk about Babe’s Bell and beating Brainerd at home,” BHS head coach Troy Hendricks said. “Any time you can provide that opportunity for the kids, it’s something they’ll never forget.”
The coveted traveling trophy is just in its second installation this year, but it already carries a lot of pride for Bemidji, which has won it both years.
“It’s amazing,” junior linebacker Colton Hinrichs said of the feeling. “Hopefully we get it next year -- three years in a row. We’re keeping that bell.”
Friday’s win was a rout from start to finish, as BHS (2-0) had its way against a struggling Warrior team.
“Both sides of the ball played great,” Hinrichs said. “It’s even better that they didn’t score. … A zero against Brainerd -- that’s rare.”
A shutout is so rare, in fact, that it’s the first for Bemidji in the rivalry since 1974. Thanks to a regular-season victory and the Section 8-5A championship in 2018, the Lumberjacks have now won three straight against the Warriors for the first time since 1973-76, as well.
BHS grabbed the lead on a 65-yard drive in the first quarter, capped by Will Falldorf’s bulldozing one-yard rush on third-and-goal. Brainerd (0-2) then gifted Bemidji another two points on the ensuing drive, as a long snap for a punt sailed out the back of the end zone for a safety.
By the time the Warriors converted their first first down of the night, Bemidji had a 9-0 lead into the second quarter.
“Our defense is extremely athletic, and they work very well together,” Hendricks said. “… These kids are athletic, they understand the scheme and they’re working together as 11 guys.”
The Jacks’ offense looked content with a two-possession lead, but their defense continued to dominate.
Hinrichs even had a statement of a stand on his own. He first made a textbook open-field tackle for loss on a quick pass to the sideline, and then he chased down Brainerd quarterback Nathaniel Staehling for a solo sack. Hinrichs finished the menacing showcase by delivering a punishing tackle on a third-and-33 rush, locking up another three-and-out and locking in the halftime score at 9-0.
“We stayed disciplined, stayed home. Everyone does their jobs,” Hinrichs said of the defense. “When my (defensive) line is taking everyone, it lets me go free and make plays.”
Bemidji’s offense added on to start the second half. First, Isaiah Reed made a juggling 13-yard catch on fourth-and-12 from just outside the red zone. It kept the drive alive for Falldorf, who shot up the middle on the next play for another touchdown.
For good measure, Falldorf added a fourth-quarter score from 72 yards out by breaking into the secondary and jetting off to the pylon.
“Will got his pad level down the last week and a half, and it’s helped him be successful as a runner,” Hendricks said. “Nobody works harder than Will does in the offseason. He’s learning how to run and utilize the strength he has in order to be a successful running back.”
The rights to Babe’s Bell were in hand by then, as was the trophy itself not long after.
“It’s a great statement in the section,” Hinrichs said. “That feels amazing, especially Brainerd. It’s a huge rivalry.”
Bemidji will look to keep rolling in a marquee road matchup in Alexandria at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13.
Bemidji 23, Brainerd 0
BRA 0 0 0 0 -- 0
BEM 9 0 7 7 -- 23
First quarter: BHS TD, Falldorf 1-yard rush, 7-0 BHS; BHS SAFETY, 9-0 BHS.
Second quarter: No scoring.
Third quarter: BHS TD, Falldorf 9-yard rush, 16-0 BHS.
Fourth quarter: BHS TD, Falldorf 72-yard rush, 23-0 BHS.