A 23-23 deadlock at halftime was broken in the second half by 14 Sauk Rapids-Rice points and Bemidji football remained winless in the 2022 season after losing 37-23 to the now 5-0 Storm on Friday at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Hoping to strike the first blow on their Homecoming Weekend, the Lumberjacks ran into trouble on the game’s second play from scrimmage when quarterback Peyton Neadeau was intercepted at midfield. Sauk Rapids turned the takeaway into a touchdown run from quarterback Keegan Patterson, which was followed by a two-point conversion for an 8-0 advantage.
Bemidji answered with a quick drive that was highlighted by a dazzling 43-yard 3rd down reception by Ethan Biehn, who picked up extra yardage with a series of elusive moves down the sideline.
The senior slot polished off the drive by taking a 4-yard sweep to the end zone, which was followed by a two-point conversion by Jack McCrady to tie the game at 8.
Sauk Rapids quickly retook the lead on its next possession, quickly racing down the field to set up another short-yardage touchdown by Patterson.
A failed two-point try by the Storm gave Bemidji an opening to take the lead, which it accomplished thanks to a bruising two-yard plunge by Reece Mostad and a converted extra point to lead 15-14.
There was still enough time left in the 1st quarter for the Lumberjacks to pick up a takeaway–their first interception of the season, courtesy of Biehn on a ball from Patterson that went off the hands of his intended receiver.
Bemidji’s ensuing drive stalled out after a costly intentional grounding penalty that took the ball all the way back to midfield before an eventual punt. The Storm marched down the long field to set up a touchdown run by Broden Flakne for a 20-15 advantage.
Biehn yet again made a first-half impact for the Lumberjacks, taking a counter draw 25 yards for an easy score–then supplying the two-point conversion and a 23-20 Jacks edge.
Sauk Rapids used a critical 4th down conversion at midfield to help set up one final play before the half at the 13-yard line of Bemidji. After three combined timeouts burned by the two teams, the Storm elected to bring out kicker Leif Rudnick to boom in a 30-yard field goal that knotted the game at 23-all.
Just as the Lumberjacks had done to begin the game, the Storm coughed up the ball on the first possession of the second half with Jack Solum’s recovery of a Flakne fumble at midfield.
In a sign of how the half was to play out for Bemidji, its offense could not turn the takeaway into points with an eventual punt. Sauk Rapids turned the new opportunity into the go-ahead touchdown: a three-yard throw from Patterson to favorite target Andrew Harren on 4th down.
Bemidji’s defense came up with a significant stop early in the 4th quarter to get the ball back to its offense, a stop punctuated by Barrick Nelson notching the team’s first sack of the season on defense.
A critical moment in the game followed on the ensuing drive, which saw Bemidji push to the Storm’s 5-yard line for 1st and Goal. Neadeau scrambled backward on a broken attempt to run the option before being twisted down for a 10-yard loss. The play left the quarterback with an injured leg that would end his night, and sophomore backup Kobe Brown failed to engineer a finish to the drive as the Lumberjacks turned the ball over on downs.
Back with the initiative, the Storm again marched down the field to set up Shaun Walrath’s 9-yard touchdown run that put the game out of reach.
Bemidji surrendered a season-high 458 yards to the Storm, with Patterson going 16-of-26 passing for 337 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Harren made eight receptions for 174 yards and a score.
Biehn accumulated 185 all-purpose yards on offense, with 118 and his two touchdowns coming on the ground.
Now 0-5 for the season, Bemidji will next travel south to square off with Buffalo on Friday at 7pm.
Postgame interview with Bemidji head coach Bryan Stoffel: