Despite difficult weather conditions and a sputtering night offensively, Bemidji improved to 7-0 with a tight 16-6 victory Friday night on the road at Sauk Rapids-Rice.
Noah Leffelman rushed 22 times for 116 yards and two touchdowns, supplying much of the offense for Bemidji on a night where the Lumberjacks gained just 215 total yards. Much of the game was played in snowy, blustery weather that left the grass field at Sauk Rapids-Rice in very soft condition.
The Lumberjacks’ vaunted defense turned in another strong performance, limiting the Storm to just 168 total yards while turning them over twice.
Conditions played a role in the first takeaway for the Lumberjacks, as a high snap on a Sauk Rapids punt set Bemidji up in great field position in the first quarter.
With Sauk Rapids-Rice threatening to break through on the scoreboard midway through the second quarter, the Lumberjacks came up with another big takeaway. A third down pass in the red zone from Storm quarterback Kobe Lee was tipped by safety Isaiah Biehn and secured by fellow safety Caden Bolte for the touchback.
Bemidji’s offense took full advantage despite having 80 yards of field ahead of them. Leffelman capped a lengthy drive to end the first half by scoring from 8 yards out on his fourth rushing touchdown in two weeks.
Despite getting the ball to start the second half leading 10-0, Bemidji turned it over immediately with a fumble on the first play from scrimmage. Sauk Rapids-Rice turned the takeaway into points with a long touchdown pass on fourth down on the ensuing drive.
A missed extra point meant the game remained at 10-6 going into the fourth quarter, as both teams found footing and execution increasingly difficult to come by on the worsening field. Bemidji had a chance at another 32-yard field goal from DeClusin, but a mishandled snap and subsequent incompletion on the broken play took away the chance at points.
Bemidji’s defense continually came up with stops in the fourth quarter, and Leffelman and the offense were able to take advantage of a short punt late in the quarter with a final touchdown run from 11 yards.
Bemidji carries a 7-0 record into its final regular season game on Wednesday at Chet Anderson Stadium against rival Moorhead in the Battle for the Axe. Gametime is at 7pm with Lumberjack Live pregame on the Lumberjack Radio Network at 6pm on KBUN-FM 104.5 and kbunsportsradio.com. Section 8AAAAA playoff seeding will be determined via QRF rating on Thursday. Bemidji is in line for both the top seed–which would be coupled with hosting through the duration of the Section playoffs–and a bye into the semifinal round.