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FOOTBALL: Bemidji survives late Buffalo stampede, landing 20-19 victory

After an agonizing 0-5 start to the season, the Bemidji High School football team at long last pieced together four winning quarters on Friday night. The Lumberjacks gutted out a 20-19 victory over Buffalo on the road, good for a hard-earned, long-awaited first win of the fall.

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Bemidji Lumberjacks
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BUFFALO -- Finally.

After an agonizing 0-5 start to the season, the Bemidji High School football team at long last pieced together four winning quarters on Friday night. The Lumberjacks gutted out a 20-19 victory over Buffalo on the road, good for a hard-earned, long-awaited first win of the fall.

“I’m extremely proud of our kids, their resiliency and the character they’ve shown throughout the season,” Bemidji head coach Bryan Stoffel said. “It’s very rewarding for them… because of the way they’ve handled themselves through a lot of adversity this year.”

The Jacks held a 20-13 fourth-quarter lead and caught a break in the waning moments of the game. Despite allowing a late 90-yard drive, culminating in a Bison touchdown with 17 seconds left, Buffalo kicker CJ Fogelquist hooked the game-tying extra point attempt wide left.

Quinten Yeung recovered the ensuing onside kick for Bemidji, and three kneel downs later, the Jacks (1-5) walked out as winners.

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“Honestly, I was preparing to go into overtime,” Stoffel said of the late PAT. “I don’t know the last time we’ve been in overtime as a program, so part of me was wondering how we explain to the kids how this goes.”

Bemidji’s crash course can now wait at least another week, though. They have a stout defense and a three-touchdown performance from Ethan Biehn to thank for that.

“I was really impressed by the defensive effort tonight,” Stoffel said. “They did a dynamite job. … Our defensive players are starting to believe a little bit, and they’re starting to play some sound, fundamental football.”

After Seth Newby snagged an interception on Buffalo’s game-opening drive, the Lumberjacks turned to Biehn for a quick strike. Peyton Neadeau delivered a 26-yard pass on fourth down, and Biehn found the end zone for a 6-0 lead.

One drive later, Biehn rushed across the goal line on an 8-yard sweep and launched Bemidji into a 12-0 halftime advantage.

The Bison (2-4) rallied in the third quarter, climbing within 12-7, but Biehn soon broke free for a 41-yard TD rush -- then added the 2-point conversion -- for a 20-7 Lumberjack lead.

“He’s just so dynamic in everything that he does,” Stoffel said. “He can hurt you by running the football, receiving the ball. He’s the total package. When you get him the ball in space, it’s going to be very difficult for one kid to bring him down.”

Things tightened considerably in the fourth quarter. Buffalo’s Zach Salonek found himself wide open for a 46-yard touchdown catch midway through the frame, and although they missed the PAT, Bemidji had to punt on its next drive.

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Punter Barrick Nelson pinned the Bison at their own 10-yard line with 5:12 remaining, but trailing by seven points, Buffalo marched downfield and sent Ty Koseck into the end zone with 17 seconds left on the clock.

Yet when the critical extra point missed the uprights, the second shank in as many attempts, Bemidji finally scored its landmark win.

“It’s important for those kids to see (a victory) and for them to realize that hard work and persistence pay off,” Stoffel said. “We were telling them as a staff for a number of weeks that we’re getting better, and our time was coming. We believed that, and we felt that.”

The Jacks have their home finale up next, facing St. Cloud Tech at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 14, at Chet Anderson Stadium.

Bemidji 20, Buffalo 19

BEM 12 0 8 0 -- 20

BUF 0 0 7 12 -- 19

First quarter -- BEM TD, Biehn 26-yard pass from P. Neadeau (PAT blocked), 6-0 BEM; BEM TD, Biehn 8-yard rush (2-pt. conversion no good), 12-0 BEM.

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Second quarter -- No scoring.

Third quarter -- BUF TD, Guida 39-yard rush (Fogelquist PAT), 12-7 BEM; BEM TD, Biehn 41-yard rush (2-pt. conversion good), 20-7 BEM.

Fourth quarter -- BUF TD, Z. Salonek 46-yard catch from Guida (Fogelquist PAT missed), 20-13 BEM; BUF TD, Kosek 15-yard catch from Guida (Fogelquist PAT missed), 20-19 BEM.

Related Topics: BEMIDJI LUMBERJACKSFOOTBALL
Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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