BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji High School football team had all the momentum Friday night in the Section 8-5A championship game. The Lumberjacks erased a 14-point deficit, came back to tie and starting marching again with aspirations for the lead.
But an interception flipped the night on its head.
“Turnovers are always key in momentum,” BHS head coach Troy Hendricks said. “You never like to turn the ball over when you’ve got momentum on your side. And that’s what happened.”
Keanan Wendt picked off Brett Tharaldson at the Moorhead 30-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. With the possession, the Spuds kicked the game-winning field goal in an ultimate 17-14 victory at Chet Anderson Stadium.
“It slowed us down,” junior Colton Hinrichs said of the interception. “We didn’t get a single turnover (ourselves). Obviously not blaming it on us, but we didn’t get any turnovers.”
Caden Triggs kicked the game-winner, a 28-yard field goal with 2 minutes, 10 seconds to play. Bemidji got the ball back and reached the Moorhead 44, but turnover on downs with 1:21 remaining made the loss all but official.
“At some point, there always comes a point of little bit of a desperation when you’re trying to do it all in one play,” Hendricks said of the comeback effort. “You either run out of time (or) run out of timeouts.”
The Spuds (8-3) drew first blood when Trey Feeney hit Blake Walthall on a 15-yard touchdown pass across the middle in the first quarter. It capped a 91-yard drive that required just six plays and 2:07 off the clock.
BHS almost had the answer on a drive that started at its own 1. The Lumberjacks marched down to the red zone, but Tharaldson underthrew Matt Arel at the goal line for an incompletion that hit the turf. Two plays later, facing fourth-and-4 from the 10, Hinrichs threw behind an open Colten Jensen in the end zone on a trick play.
The Spuds pulled off a last-minute touchdown just before the half when Feeney connected with Brady Walthall on a fade route to the corner of the end zone. The reception brought on a 14-0 score with nine seconds remaining in the half, which felt daunting against a stagnant Bemidji offense.
But the Jacks responded out of the break. First, Hinrichs scored on a 5-yard rush late in the third quarter. A botched snap led to an impromptu and unsuccessful 2-point conversion, so the Moorhead lead held at 14-6.
Nevertheless, BHS rallied to tie on its next drive. Tharaldson hit Arel on a 36-yard completion, and Hinrichs did the rest on the next play for a 22-yard rush to the end zone. James Williams snuck inside the pylon for the game-tying 2-point conversion with 10 minutes to play.
“We started executing and playing with some passion on offense. For that, I was really proud of the kids,” Hendricks said. “… In the second half, we knew either we wake up and answer the bell, or it’s going to be a very short season.”
“In the first half, we just couldn’t find a rhythm. In the second half, we figured it out and started moving the ball,” Hinrichs added. “After we all started doing our jobs, things started clicking.”
Bemidji had momentum to spare by then, but the fatal interception came after Moorhead’s ensuing three-and-out. Triggs -- then the Spuds defense -- did the rest to claim the Section 8-5A throne.
The Lumberjacks finish the season 10-2, with both losses coming at home to Moorhead.
No. 3 Moorhead 17, No. 1 Bemidji 14
MHD 7 7 0 3 -- 17
BHS 0 0 6 8 -- 14
First quarter -- MHD TD, Bl. Walthall 29-yard reception from Feeney (Triggs PAT), 7-0 MHD.
Second quarter -- MHD TD, Br. Walthall 9-yard reception from Feeney (Triggs PAT), 14-0 MHD.
Third quarter -- BHS TD, Hinrichs 5-yard rush (2-pt. conversion no good), 14-6 MHD.
Fourth quarter -- BHS TD, Hinrichs 22-yard rush (Williams 2-pt. conversion rush), 14-14; MHD FG, Triggs 28-yard kick, 17-14 MHD.