On the eve of the state’s four-week shutdown of high school sports due to an increase in coronavirus cases, Bemidji football concluded the 2020 season as a Section 8AAAAA finalist with a 21-6 win against Sartell-St. Stephen in a semifinal game Friday evening at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Both teams sputtered on their opening drives, as a lengthy Sartell drive ended in a punt and Bemidji turned the ball over on downs after advancing inside the Sabres’ 30-yard line. The Lumberjacks’ defense forced a three-and-out on Sartell’s second possession, backed by a sack from senior linebacker Colton Hinrichs.
After setting up in Sartell territory on the ensuing punt, Bemidji needed just three plays to find the end zone, as Will Falldorf powered through tackles for an 18-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead for the home team.
Despite almost doubling the Sabres in first half yards, Bemidji’s offense held the ball significantly less and also had an interception. The score stayed at 7-0 going into halftime, but the Lumberjacks started with the ball to begin the second half and made an instant impact.
Falldorf rumbled for 15 yards into Sartell territory on the first play from scrimmage before Hinrichs ran an option pitch in for a 45-yard touchdown just 38 seconds into the half.
Following another Sartell punt, Brett Tharaldson hit Falldorf on a swing pass that turned into a 73-yard gallop down the sideline for the senior running back’s first-ever receiving touchdown.
Sartell’s offense mustered a drive that resulted in a 39-yard rushing touchdown for Ethan Torgrimson to keep the Sabres around at 21-6 late in the third quarter.
Tasked with maintaining the lead, Bemidji’s defense bent without breaking for the remainder in the half and was aided by a slew of sacks from across the front seven.
An early-fourth quarter goal line stand was also required from the Lumberjacks’ defense, which stopped Sartell on downs after the Sabres had set up for 1st-and-Goal from the 7-yard line.
There was still time for a late takeaway as well, as Isaiah Biehn sat in coverage to pick off a 4th-and-26 heave from Sartell quarterback Cole Hentges that ended any further threats from the Sabres.
Tharaldson went 5-11 passing for 107 yards and both the touchdown to Falldorf and an interception on a chilly evening that saw ball security prove difficult for both teams at times. Falldorf totaled 79 yards on 10 carries rushing for 152 all-purpose yards and two total touchdowns. Hinrichs turned five carries into 61 yards and a touchdown, while James Williams also added three rushes for 50 yards.
Minnesota’s pause of high school sports for four weeks means that Friday was the official conclusion of the fall football season, with some Sections opting to skip ahead to a championship game while others finished with only the playoff games of the day. Bemidji’s season concludes with a record of 5-2, a Section 8AAAAA finalist designation, and the graduation of 15 players from the program.
Before the game, Bemidji High School activities assistant Sheila Guest was honored for her likely final sporting event in the position, as she is due to retire at the end of the 2020 calendar year. Guest has worked in the Bemidji activities office since September of 1984.