BEMIDJI -- If Friday night proved anything, it’s that the Bemidji High School football team is the real deal.
The Lumberjacks beat a quality St. Cloud Tech team 53-34 with ease at Chet Anderson Stadium, earning their stripes to go along with the hype surrounding their early-season success.
“I thought we had a really good game plan going in,” BHS head coach Troy Hendricks said. “It all starts with our quarterback. Brett (Tharaldson) executed the game plan. The kids just did a really nice job of keeping the chains moving. When we called shots… we executed those, too.”
Bemidji (5-0) scored eight touchdowns, forced five Tiger turnovers and overcame an unnerving injury to standout running back Will Falldorf in the first quarter.
“I thought that, for us to win, we needed to win the turnover battle tonight, and we needed to win on special teams,” Hendricks said. “Those were two things that we did do tonight. And when we took our 50-50 balls, when coach (Bryan) Stoffel called those big plays, the kids executed.”
A scary scene surfaced on Bemidji’s second drive. On a play-action fake, Falldorf stayed on the ground for about 10 minutes after hitting his head on the turf during a tackle. Hendricks said Falldorf wanted to try to walk off, but an abundance of caution resulted in Falldorf being carted off and into an ambulance.
“He’ll be just fine,” Hendricks said.
Bemidji was surgical on its opening drive. After Nick Snell recovered a Tech fumble deep in the red zone, the Lumberjacks marched 70 yards in 11 plays to pick up a 4-yard touchdown run from Falldorf.
BHS then scored twice in the final 19.1 seconds left in the opening quarter. Bemidji took over at the Tech 39 after a fourth-down stop, and Jacob Kelly turned on the jets to separate on the first play for the touchdown reception.
The Tigers (3-2) fumbled the ball away on the ensuing kickoff return, and Gavin Luksik converted a soft pass over the middle into a 35-yard dash into the end zone for a 19-0 lead.
“We wanted to attack all game,” Snell said. “That was our game plan, to not slow down. We did that, and that’s all it boils down to.”
Snell punched in a 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter, an encore of his 54-yard dash two plays prior, to go in between a pair of St. Cloud Tech scores before halftime.
The final touchdown came with 16.1 seconds remaining, a Troy Feddema 9-yard catch, which capped a Tigers drive with two fourth-down conversions for a more competitive 26-14 score by the break.
But Snell and Bemidji ran away with the win in the third quarter. On the first play of the half, Kelly reeled in a 40-yard catch, which ultimately set up Snell’s 23-yard score on a dash to the pylon.
Colten Jensen made a nimble run down the sideline two drives later, turning a short play-action pass into a 48-yard touchdown reception. Snell added one more score for good measure, going untouched into the end zone from 7 yards out, making for a 46-20 lead by quarter’s end.
By then, the Jacks reached their highest point total of the season. To say the least, there was no shortage of fireworks on offense.
“It was the offensive line for sure, and our wideouts,” Snell said. “Everybody blocked super great, and the holes were huge.”
Tech scored two touchdowns early in the fourth, closing within 46-34 with a shade under nine minutes remaining, but James Williams put the game on ice with a late touchdown catch to clinch the win.
“The kids took a step forward again in some respects, but I think the defensive guys are ticked off right now and would say they can play a lot better than that,” Hendricks said. “By no means are we where we need to be, but we definitely took leaps forward again today.”
There was plenty to motivate Bemidji on Friday night, but one thing stood above the rest.
“We wanted to do it for Will,” Snell said. “He’s been busting it all year. We just did it for him.”
Bemidji will return to the Chet for a 7 p.m. meeting with Big Lake on Friday, Oct. 4.
Bemidji 53, St. Cloud Tech 34
SCT 0 14 6 14 -- 34
BHS 19 7 20 7 -- 53