BEMIDJI -- The final score was 21-6 Bemidji.
Now that that’s out of the way, Friday night was about much more for the BHS football team.
“We have finality,” head coach Bryan Stoffel said. “We have something that ends it and gave these kids an opportunity to have one last game. With the way 2020 went, you couldn’t ask for something better.”
Win or lose, the Lumberjacks knew the season was ending Friday night at Chet Anderson Stadium. The upcoming lockdown, imposed by Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order, ended just as many seasons as did playoff losses.
That was the case for Bemidji, a victor over Sartell-St. Stephen and yet a victim of the pandemic.
“It’s really bittersweet,” senior defensive lineman Isaiah Rintala said. “We’ve been working for this for 10 years now. It’s great to end on a win, but it’s also sad that it’s all over.”
“Obviously you want to play for a section championship, because that’s been our goal since third grade,” senior linebacker/running back Colton Hinrichs added. “But we understand with the pandemic and everything. It is what it is.”
No, a title like “Section 8-5A semifinal champions” may not have much of a ring to it, but that’s as good as it gets for a team that won’t get a chance to challenge top-ranked Moorhead in a championship game next week.
“We would all want to have a section title game and another shot at Moorhead,” Stoffel said. “It’s an emotional time for these kids. It’s a different emotion because there’s happy along with the sad. But we’re more proud than anything. We’re proud of these kids.”
Many of the seniors lingered on the field following the game’s conclusion. And who could blame them? The night -- a postseason win, no less -- marked the end of a 10-year run as the first class to advance all the way through the Bemidji Youth Football ranks and finish their careers as seniors at the varsity level.
“They’ll tell you that they’re the first class,” Stoffel said. “There’s a lot of pride on the field. That comes from their brotherhood. They’re a really close group of kids. They play hard for each other. And they did tonight.”
That rang true in a senior-led effort on the gridiron. Will Falldorf started the scoring in the first quarter by shedding three tacklers and carrying a fourth into the end zone on an 18-yard touchdown rush.
The defense held firm to preserve the 7-0 edge into halftime, and the offense came out with a vengeance in the third quarter.
On the second play from scrimmage, Hinrichs took a pitch 45 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. And after the BHS defense forced a quick punt, Falldorf turned a swing pass from Brett Tharaldson into a 73-yard house call -- the offense’s second touchdown in as many snaps.
“It gave us a lot of momentum and it seperated us mentally, that we were ahead of the game,” Rintala said. “… It just feels great to end on a win, especially at home, in front of all our friends and family.”
Sheila Guest, the beloved longtime assistant AD at Bemidji High School, is making her rounds pregame. After 37+ years, tonight's game will be the final one she attends before retiring next month. She has been "the TRUE Pride of the North," as described in a BHS PA announcement.— Micah Friez (@micahfriez) November 21, 2020
The Lumberjack faithful -- proving their passion by enduring temps that dipped into the teens -- witnessed the team’s longest touchdown of the season on Falldorf’s dash. And although the Sabres (3-3) responded with a harmless score, Bemidji’s defense later forced a turnover on downs inside the 5 and got an interception out of Isaiah Biehn that sealed the win and the season.
BHS ends the year with a 5-2 record and will send off 15 seniors as winners: Jarrett Kondos, James Williams III, Grant DeClusin, Aaron Hoefer, Brandon Lussier, Matt Arel, Jordan Brown, Noah Leffelman, Robert Roybal, Tyler Simon, Biehn, Rintala, Tharaldson, Falldorf and Hinrichs.
“It’s the end of 10 years of football with my brothers,” Hinrichs said. “It’s kind of heartbreaking. But life goes on, and this is a great way to end it.”
Bemidji 21, Sartell-St. Stephen 6
SSS 0 0 6 0 -- 6
BHS 7 0 14 0 -- 21
First quarter -- BHS TD, Falldorf 18-yard rush (DeClusin PAT), 7-0 BHS.
Second quarter -- No scoring.
Third quarter -- BHS TD, Hinrichs 45-yard rush (DeClusin PAT), 14-0 BHS; BHS TD, Falldorf 73-yard catch from Tharaldson (DeClusin PAT), 21-0 BHS; SSS TD, Torgrimson 39-yard rush (2-pt. conversion no good), 21-6 BHS.
Fourth quarter -- No scoring.