BEMIDJI -- It was as lopsided on paper as it was on the field.
The Bemidji High School football team ran away from Big Lake on Friday night. On the stat page, on the turf and on the scoreboard.
By the time it mercifully ended, the Lumberjacks had a double-digit touchdown count for a 66-0 victory over the Hornets at Chet Anderson Stadium.
“I don’t know if we really sent a message, as far as to anybody else,” BHS defensive coordinator Steve Thompson said. “But I think we realized tonight, if we play disciplined football, how good we can be.”
Big Lake had one more yard of total offense (11) than Bemidji had touchdowns (10).
“That’s unbelievable,” senior safety Vinny Tesch said. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a team even holding a team to 11 yards in the first quarter, let alone four quarters of a football game.”
The touchdowns came easy for the Jacks (6-0), including six in the first half, but the BHS defense was just as mighty. The Hornets didn’t move the chains until their sixth drive and had just three first downs to show for the night.
“I just love the way this group prepares,” Thompson said of his defense. “They put in a good week of practice, they put in extra film time, and it shows on the football field.”
James Williams produced the first and the final touchdowns of the first half on short runs. In between, Noah Leffelman trucked a defender to bowl over the goal line, Jayden Clyde shedded tackles for a short-yardage score and Colten Jensen’s full extension snagged him a touchdown catch with his fingertips.
“It’s a lot of fun to see the offense driving,” Tesch said. “We had a really good scheme. We executed everything well, and everything turned out good for us.”
But the defense put points up, too. In the second quarter, Reid Colley beat a host of teammates to recover a fumble off a botched snap on a punt attempt in the first half, which helped contribute to the 40-0 onslaught by the break.
And while the offense had no trouble driving at will, a stout defensive effort was just what the doctor ordered for a unit that surrendered a season-high 34 points to St. Cloud Tech a week ago.
“It was a good response,” Thompson said. “We watched our film and we evaluated a little bit. There were some areas where we needed some more discipline, and we needed to attack a little bit better. I think you saw that on display tonight.”
Bemidji’s offense went dormant in the third quarter, only scoring once on a Clyde 4-yard rush, but the Lumberjacks exploded again once running time hit in the fourth.
Leffelman opened the frame with a bang, bursting through a hole for an 11-yard touchdown, and Tesch followed with a 40-yard pick-six on the ensuing Big Lake drive.
Tesch then recovered a fumble on his next trip out -- his second takeaway in three plays -- which set up Leffelman for a 10-yard rush up the middle for one last score.
“It’s definitely electrifying,” Tesch said of the takeaways. “And it definitely brings the crowd back in a game when things are going really good for us.”
The Hornets padded their total yardage with five in the final minute, creating an ultimate 379-11 difference, but time quickly ran out on the 66-0 swarming.
“We take a lot of pride,” Tesch said of the defense. “We have a real strong connection with everyone. … The communication and the preparation we had throughout the week (made this possible). It was really good, and we got to have a lot of young kids step up and play in this game also.”
BHS will hit the road once more in the regular season, a 7 p.m. meeting at Sauk Rapids-Rice on Friday, Oct. 11. It will serve as the encore to a special performance that Thompson summarized well.
“It was a great night of football if you’re a Lumberjack fan,” he said.
Bemidji 66, Big Lake 0
BL 0 0 0 0 -- 0
BHS 21 19 8 18 -- 66
First quarter: BHS TD, Williams 5-yard rush (DeClusin PAT), 7-0 BHS; BHS TD, Leffelman 4-yard rush (DeClusin PAT), 14-0 BHS; BHS TD, Colley 14-yard fumble recovery (DeClusin PAT), 21-0 BHS.
Second quarter: BHS TD, Clyde 10-yard rush (DeClusin PAT missed), 27-0 BHS; BHS TD, Jensen 6-yard reception (DeClusin PAT), 34-0 BHS; BHS TD, Williams 3-yard rush (DeClusin PAT missed), 40-0 BHS.
Third quarter: BHS TD, Clyde 4-yard rush (Hudson 2-pt. Conversion reception), 48-0 BHS.
Fourth quarter: BHS TD, Leffelman 11-yard rush (Schwarzlander PAT missed), 54-0 BHS; Tesch 40-yard interception return (Schwarzlander PAT missed), 60-0 BHS; Leffelman 10-yard rush (Schwarzlander PAT missed), 66-0 BHS.