Six different players contributed touchdowns on the ground and through the air for Bemidji football as the Lumberjacks gave head coach Bryan Stoffel his first victory in a dominant 48-6 drubbing of Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday at Chet Anderson Stadium.
A week removed from dealing with a litany of penalties and errors on offense in a loss to Andover, the execution was crisp throughout the night from Bemidji in piling up 397 yards of total offense. Much of the damage came on the ground, where the Lumberjacks racked up 308 yards rushing.
The opening possession of the game for Bemidji’s offense came about in bizarre circumstances. Grant Declusin’s opening kickoff drilled a Sartell player in the back, bouncing back to Declusin to fall on at midfield for a fumble recovery. The ensuing drive rapidly put the Lumberjacks in the red zone and was capped by a James Williams touchdown run of 11 yards.
Sartell quickly went three-and-out against the Lumberjacks’ swarming rush defense, giving the ball back in good field position. After yet another quick drive, Bemidji’s lead grew to 14-0 after a sweep rush of 12 yards from Colton Hinrichs.
Despite breaking through for a long pass play on their next drive, the Sabres gave the ball right back to Bemidji at midfield on an interception of Sartell quarterback Cole Hentges by Brandon Lussier.
With the ball back again, Bemidji quarterback Brett Tharaldson went to the air on third down in hopes of picking up a new set of downs. Matt Arel hauled in the reception before spinning to the sideline and reeling off a catch-and-run of 42 yards to the end zone and a 21-0 advantage.
Sartell gained a foothold early in the second quarter on a 76-yard touchdown pass from Hentges to his running back Ethan Torgrimson to pull within 21-6 after the missed extra point. A fumble from Tharaldson gave the Sabres the ball back inside their own 30-yard line, but Hentges was picked off by Isaiah Biehn after being put under pressure on a rollout.
Seizing the opportunity with the ball inside the 15, the Lumberjacks cashed in with a short touchdown run from Will Falldorf to up the lead to 28-6.
Falldorf again found the end zone from close range in the final minute of the first half, with a missed extra point giving the Lumberjacks a 34-6 halftime advantage.
Bemidji started the second half giving junior Gemini Ellis an opportunity to run as the feature back, and he turned it into a 22-yard touchdown on their second drive after being set up by a 22-yard run from slot Noah Leffelman.
Meanwhile, Bemidji’s defense continued to bottle up Sartell’s running game and put Hentges under pressure, leading to a sack for senior defensive end Isaiah Rintala.
The Lumberjacks wrapped up the scoring on a late touchdown run in the fourth quarter from Carson Binkley, who joined Ellis in scoring his first varsity touchdown for Bemidji in finishing the 48-6 final score.
Tharaldson finished 7-10 through the air for 89 yards and the touchdown to Arel, who had four catches for 63 yards. Falldorf had 13 carries for 104 yards and two scores, while Ellis finished just shy of 100 yards with a 14-carry, 96-yard night capped by the touchdown.
Bemidji’s swarming defense held Sartell to just 149 total yards, with a mere 20 gained on the ground. Hentges led his team in rushing with 4 carries for 25 yards.
The Lumberjacks improve to 1-1, and will next travel to St. Cloud Apollo on Friday for a 7pm game.
Postgame interview with Bemidji head coach Bryan Stoffel: