BRAINERD -- Babe’s Bell didn’t stay in Brainerd for long.
The traveling trophy rode down with the Bemidji High School football team for Friday night’s game against the Warriors, but the Lumberjacks brought it right back home after a one-sided 38-13 win in the rivalry showdown.
“Any time we can hold onto Babe’s Bell and keep it in Bemidji for another year, we’re ecstatic,” BHS head coach Bryan Stoffel said.
The trophy, now three years old, has been Bemidji’s ever since it was created. Much like the previous two seasons, the bell will call Bemidji High School home for another year.
Here’s the proof: @BemidjiFB reclaims Babe’s Bell with a dominant 38-13 victory over Brainerd. The Lumberjacks have never lost possession of the traveling trophy in its three-year history. Tonight also marks Bemidji’s first win in Brainerd since 2011. pic.twitter.com/24VXWKvcDH— Micah Friez (@micahfriez) October 31, 2020
“Obviously it’s a big rivalry,” Stoffel said. “I told the boys that it’s the best traveling trophy in the state and to be proud to have it in Bemidji.”
There was no doubt about this one, the Jacks’ first victory at Brainerd since 2011. BHS quarterback Brett Tharaldson flashed pinpoint accuracy and racked up three touchdowns in the first half, leading an offensive attack that was as sharp as it’s been all season.
“He did an outstanding job of leading our offense tonight,” Stoffel said. “You saw from the plays he made that he’s a very talented quarterback. When he can have the confidence he’s got right now, and with the surrounding cast, we can be pretty scary on offense.”
Defensively, the Lumberjacks continued their dominance for much of the night and only allowed two fourth-quarter scores when victory was already in hand. Ethan Biehn, Isaiah Biehn and Brandon Lussier all grabbed at least one interception apiece, and the Warriors mustered just 35 yards of offense in the first half.
Colton Hinrichs broke the ice for Bemidji, rushing into the end zone on a counter from 27 yards out. Tharaldson started to shine on the next drive, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to Matt Arel on fourth-and-15.
Grant DeClusin added a 32-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead in the second quarter, and then Tharaldson found Gavin Luksik for two more scores before halftime.
The first touchdown came on a fake option pitch, as Tharaldson instead lofted a 14-yard pass to a wide-open Luksik in the end zone to beat the blitz. The last score of the opening half was a 6-yard dart back to Luksik in the closing seconds.
“I think it’s the best half of play that we’ve had all season,” Stoffel said. “We’ve executed extremely well at times, but tonight we were firing on all cylinders. We also had our defense playing typical Lumberjack defense and shutting them out. Probably our best first half of the entire season.”
The 31-0 halftime lead took a blow when Brainerd scored two consolation touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but no matter for the Lumberjacks. Ethan Biehn made two nice interceptions on back-to-back drives in the third quarter, and Will Falldorf added a 26-yard touchdown rush in the fourth to ensure a comfortable cushion.
Jed Klang had receptions of 28 and 16 yards for the Brainerd touchdowns. Those were the first points that BHS had surrendered in nine quarters of play, dating back to the second quarter of Week 2. The Warriors also intercepted a Tharaldson pass and recovered a Falldorf fumble in the third quarter for a pair of other bright spots.
But make no mistake: Just like Babe’s Bell, this night belonged to Bemidji.
“When you look at the totality of the game, I thought we played a very good game of football tonight,” Stoffel said. “It just got away from us a little bit in the second half with some mistakes and some turnovers obviously. There are some things that we can fix and look at and do a better job of. But in general, the whole game, I thought we played outstanding.”
Bemidji will return to action at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6, against Alexandria at Chet Anderson Stadium, in search of their fourth win in a row.
Bemidji 38, Brainerd 13
BEM 14 17 0 7 -- 38
BRD 0 0 0 13 -- 13
First quarter -- BEM TD, Hinrichs 27-yard rush (DeClusin PAT), 7-0 BEM; BEM TD, Arel 19-yard catch from Tharaldson (DeClusin PAT), 14-0 BEM.
Second quarter -- BEM FG, DeClusin 32-yard kick, 17-0 BEM; BEM TD, Luksik 14-yard catch from Tharaldson (DeClusin PAT), 24-0 BEM; BEM TD, Luksik 6-yard catch from Tharaldson (DeClusin PAT), 31-0 BEM.
Third quarter -- No scoring.
Fourth quarter -- BRD TD, Klang 28-yard catch from Staehling (Brown PAT missed), 31-6 BEM; BEM TD, Falldorf 26-yard rush (DeClusin PAT), 38-6 BEM; BRD TD, Klang 16-yard catch from Staehling (Brown PAT), 38-13.