BEMIDJI -- When Grant DeClusin booted the opening kickoff Friday night for the Bemidji High School football team, he wasn’t expecting to see the ball come right back to him.

“The whole week, we’ve been practicing that squib kick. And it’s aiming for that front guy,” DeClusin said. “When it came out, I was surprised it bounced back to me, to be honest. Five yards (away), right in front of me.”

DeClusin ricocheted the ball off a Sartell-St. Stephen special teamer and fell on the ball himself for an easy recovery. That set up a quick-hitter touchdown to start the night, and the Lumberjacks cruised from then on out in a 48-6 rout over the Sabres at Chet Anderson Stadium.

“Grant did a great job,” BHS head coach Bryan Stoffel said. “He hit him, and obviously it was a big momentum shift right there at the start of the game.”

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The Jacks dominated for seven touchdowns, four takeaways and a win that was decided long before the final whistle.

“The kids were super focused all game. I was really proud of that,” Stoffel said. “That was an emphasis we had: Make sure we’re focused on a snap-to-snap basis. I thought we did an incredible job with that all night long.”

DeClusin’s opening recovery led to a five-play drive that ended with James Williams III’s touchdown rush from 11 yards out. After the BHS defense forced a three-and-out, Colton Hinrichs followed with a 12-yard score midway through the first quarter.

Bemidji senior Grant DeClusin kicks for an extra point in the first half against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)
Bemidji senior Grant DeClusin kicks for an extra point in the first half against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Not to be outdone, Matt Arel used a stiff arm along the sideline to turn a short Brett Tharaldson pass into a 42-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead for Bemidji (1-1) after the first quarter.

“That is what this team is,” Stoffel said of the offense. “I thought they executed extremely well tonight. You can see when we execute, we have athletes who can make some dangerous plays.”

The Sabres (1-1) needed to get going in a hurry, and Ethan Torgrimson answered the call in a heartbeat. He took a third-and-10 catch on a slant route 76 yards to the house on the first play of the second quarter.

Will Falldorf added a pair of short-yardage touchdowns for the Lumberjacks in response -- the former largely thanks to Isaiah Biehn’s interception and return down to the 12. Falldorf’s second score came just before halftime and made for a 34-6 game at the break.

Lumberjack senior Isaiah Biehn (6) returns the ball after his interception against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)
Lumberjack senior Isaiah Biehn (6) returns the ball after his interception against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

“It was nice,” DeClusin said of the pedal-to-the-metal attitude. “We all worked as a team, as Stoff said this week. We kind of were separated last game. I think we collaborated together, picked each other up, worked as a team. And that got us the W.”

Bemidji’s first drive of substance in the second half was all Gemini Ellis. The junior running back carried four times on a six-play, 67-yard drive, going 38 yards in total and 22 on the final dart to the end zone.

The Sabres were staring at a 41-6 deficit after three quarters, and Carson Binkley added one more BHS touchdown for good measure in the fourth. He found the pylon on a reverse from eight yards out, cementing the final score in a one-sided showcase.

The win also doubled as career No. 1 for Stoffel, who’s in his first year as the program’s head coach.

“I’m thankful for the players, obviously, and the coaches for putting in a lot of hard work,” he said. “I’m obviously excited for it. It feels good. Hopefully there’s more to come.”

“That was awesome,” DeClusin added. “He’s a role model to me, and I look up to him. That was awesome to see.”

The Lumberjacks will be on the road for the first time this season when they travel to St. Cloud Apollo for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Friday, Oct. 23.



Bemidji 48, Sartell-St. Stephen 6

SSS 0 6 0 0 -- 6

BHS 21 13 7 7 -- 48

First quarter -- BHS TD, Williams 11-yard rush (DeClusin PAT), 7-0 BHS; BHS TD, Hinrichs 10-yard rush (DeClusin PAT), 14-0 BHS; BHS TD, Arel 42-yard catch from Tharaldson (DeClusin PAT).

Second quarter -- SSS TD, Torgrimson 76-yard catch from Hentges (Smith PAT no good), 21-6 BHS; BHS TD, Falldorf 5-yard rush (DeClusin PAT), 28-6 BHS; BHS TD, Falldorf 1-yard rush (DeClusin PAT no good), 34-6 BHS.

Third quarter -- BHS TD, Ellis 22-yard rush (DeClusin PAT), 41-6 BHS.

Fourth quarter -- BHS TD, Binkley 8-yard rush (DeClusin PAT), 48-6 BHS.