HIGHLIGHTS: Alexandria Stuns Jacks With 4th Quarter Comeback, Last-Second Field Goal

Leading 38-14 entering the 4th quarter of their home opener, Bemidji football could not hold off a furious 27-point rally by Alexandria–capped by a game-winning 36-yard field goal as time expired–that sealed a shocking 41-38 victory for the Cardinals on Friday evening at Chet Anderson Stadium.

The rematch of last year’s Section 8AAAAA finalists got off to a perfect start for the Lumberjacks, who had been defeated by a late Alexandria rally from a 14-point deficit to win the title 43-35 last November. A three-and-out by the Cardinals offense turned into a blocked punt when a swarm of Lumberjacks flooded around punter Boone Branson to set Bemidji up at the Cardinals’ 9-yard line.

On the ensuing play, Peyton Neadeau’s quick throw to Ethan Biehn was taken to the end zone to give Bemidji a 6-0 lead just 70 seconds into the game.

Despite a missed extra point, things got even better for the Jacks just six seconds of gameplay later. Cardinal quarterback Chase Thompson mishandled a low snap, fumbling it into the hands of a galloping Seth Newby to take 15 yards for a touchdown and 12-0 lead.

Newby could not take the two-point try across the goal line, but Bemidji would take the ball back quickly after another stop of the Alex offense. A short drive later, Neadeau found the end zone with a 7-yard option keeper that had the Lumberjacks ahead 18-0 just over six minutes into the game.

The Cardinals pieced together a quick drive of their own thanks to an almost exclusive passing attack, but their progress was stopped inside the Bemidji 5-yard line with a fumble by recovered by the defense.

Alexandria’s breakthrough touchdown came in the second quarter on a long heave at midfield from Thompson to Mason Gorghuber that found the Lumberjacks outnumbered in deep coverage.

Bemidji shook off penalty-plagued drives that opened the second quarter with a smooth march that culminated in a 4-yard plunge by Reece Mostad to extend the lead to 24-7, though the Lumberjacks concerningly failed to convert a conventional extra point try for the third time in the quarter after a blocked kick.

Just enough time remained for the Alex offense to strike for another touchdown through the air, this time on a slant to Kelly Johnson with less than a minute to go in the half that trimmed the lead to 24-14.

The third quarter opened with Bemidji in possession, and the Lumberjacks impressively took over seven minutes off the clock with a methodical drive that featured four third-down conversions. The final one was a 1-yard draw to Newby for his second touchdown of the night–this time on offense–that was coupled with an extra point by Jacob Stanoch to put Bemidji up 31-14.

The Jacks kept momentum on their side with a fast turnover on downs at midfield when the Cardinals attempted a rush on 4th and 1.

Back with the ball in Alex territory, the Lumberjacks again marched down the field while winding the clock down inside the final minute of the third quarter. Neadeau called his own number on a 9-yard keeper that gave the Jacks their largest lead at 38-14.

The third quarter’s final play brought an injection to life for Alexandria. Johnson took the ensuing kickoff inside the Bemidji 20-yard line on a 79-yard gallop, leading to a fast strike Thompson touchdown pass to Jaxon Schoenrock early in the 4th. The accompanying two-point conversion put the Cardinals down 38-22, but with a window to only need two possessions to tie the game.

Another good Bemidji drive put the hosts in position to respond to the touchdown not long after, but a fumble by Mostad on a bursting run inside the Alexandria 5-yard line was recovered for a Cardinal touchback in the back of the end zone on what later proved to be a costly giveaway.

With their passing game in gear again, the Cardinals rapidly drove down the field to set up a 1-yard draw play to Walker Hennen for another touchdown. Yet again, Alexandria added the two-point conversion as well to suddenly pull within one possession at 38-30 with over six minutes remaining.

Bemidji’s offense ran into more penalty trouble and a three-and-out on its next series, which was compounded by a mishandled snap on a punt from Neadeau that put the Cardinals inside the Jacks’ 10-yard line. Despite mustering a stand that left Alexandria facing a 4th and Goal from the 1-yard line, the Lumberjacks’ defense could not stop Thompson from finding Johnson for a touchdown toss.

Johnson was again the target on the two-point try for the tie, which was successfully converted to stunningly tie the game at 38 with three and a half minutes left.

Neadeau and Biehn failed to connect on a third down pass play, leaving the Lumberjacks needing to punt the ball away again. Though Alexandria was backed up by a penalty on the return, its offense methodically moved into field goal range for sophomore kicker Daniel Jackson. His 36-yard try with one second left on the clock sailed through the uprights as time expired to complete a dramatic, head-spinning comeback for the defending Section champions.

Biehn totaled 130 yards on 15 carries to go with his 40 receiving yards and touchdown reception to lead Bemidji’s offense. Mostad ran 12 times for 77 yards and a score, while Peyton Neadeau accounted for three touchdowns–two rushing and one passing.

Alexandria piled up 403 yards of offense, guided by a 28-of-41 passing performance by Thompson for 364 yards and four touchdowns. Johnson had 12 catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns.

Bemidji (0-2) will remain home next week for a matchup against Moorhead at 7pm.

Postgame interview with Bemidji head coach Bryan Stoffel: