Late scores in the second half could not bring Bemidji football back from a 24-point halftime deficit in a 38-20 defeat to Alexandria on Friday evening at Alexandria High School.
Hoping to bounce back from a shutout loss to Rogers in the opening week of the new season, the Lumberjacks used a quality defensive series to take Alexandria off the field on its opening drive. Bemidji finished the opening drive with consecutive group sacks to force an early punt.
Offensive struggles from the opening week carried into the first drive, as a three-and-out was followed by a muffed punt after a high snap that turned into a turnover on downs. Bemidji’s defense dug in again to force a 28-yard field goal from Myles Sansted to give Alexandria a 3-0 lead.
The Cardinals took over after another stalled Bemidji drive and went on a lengthy march down the field that included multiple 4th-down conversions–including a 3-yard scamper from Kristen Hoskins for the game’s first touchdown.
Fumble trouble struck Bemidji’s offense deep in its own end of the field on the next possession and paved the way for Carter Steffensmeier to connect with Jaxon Schoenrock for a 12-yard touchdown.
The lead was stretched to 24-0 later in the second quarter when Steffensmeier fired another touchdown strike, this time a 15-yard score to Zach Gundberg.
The wait for a first touchdown of the new season ended early in the third quarter for the Lumberjacks following a 62-yard kickoff return from Ethan Biehn that set the offense up on the Alexandria 35-yard line. The short field led to a 6-yard touchdown run for senior quarterback Jack Larson on a third-down rollout.
The Cardinals’ quarterback answered right back with a touchdown run of his own on the next drive, with Steffensmeier dashing in from three yards out to bring the lead to 31-7.
Both teams went back and forth with turnovers midway through the third quarter. Gemini Ellis’ fumble for Bemidji was matched when Steffensmeier was intercepted in traffic on a quick read by linebacker Dakotah Canty.
Another Lumberjack fumble on the next possession was cashed in by Steffensmeier on another quarterback keeper for a score to push the lead to 38-7 at the end of three quarters.
Bemidji tacked on scores in the final frame with the help of special teams. After Barrick Nelson pinned the Cardinals deep with a punt to the 12 yard-line, Nate Schwinghammer forced a strip sack of Steffensmeier that led to Nelson recovering the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
Alexandria had difficulty with a high snap on an attempted punt on the next possession and punter Mason Teaser’s downed recovery left Bemidji just inches from the end zone.
The following play, backup quarterback Hunter Brodina dashed across the line for a one-yard score that brought Bemidji within 38-20.
The Lumberjacks finished with 180 yards of total offense, with Ellis putting up 97 yards on 17 carries. Larson went 6-for-7 passing for 44 yards while also carrying three times for 12 yards.
Bemidji (0-2) will return to the road next Friday for a visit to Moorhead at 7pm.