Two Moorhead touchdowns on the first two drives of the third quarter–including off a Bemidji fumble on its opening drive–opened up a close game as the Lumberjacks ultimately fell short 35-27 on Friday evening at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Eager to put their heartbreaking Week 2 loss to Alexandria behind them, the Lumberjacks fell behind 7-0 on a one-yard touchdown run from the Spuds’ Ben Hrdlicka in the first quarter.
The Lumberjacks faced a mid-range 3rd down at midfield as they looked to respond on the ensuing drive, and converted thanks to a remarkable one-handed reception by Ethan Biehn in Spuds territory.
Biehn, fittingly, capped the drive by zipping to the end zone on a 26-yard dash to tie the game at seven.
Moorhead retook the lead in the second quarter with a drive that blended the ground and passing games before leading to a 10-yard touchdown rush for Hrdlicka.
Bemidji again responded with a touchdown on the ground, this time getting a thrilling 61-yard gallop from Quinten Yeung on an end-around sweep that took him down the sideline to the end zone.
A mishandled snap on the extra point try left Bemidji down 14-13, a score that would hold until halftime as both defenses stepped up to make stops before the break. Among the drives was one more opportunity for the Lumberjacks, who reached Moorhead’s end of the field inside the final minute before University of Washington commit Elinneus Davis was able to sack Bemidji quarterback Peyton Neadeau on 3rd and 1 to stop the threat.
Bemidji received the second-half kickoff, but lost possession just two plays into the drive on a fumble that set up Moorhead with excellent field position.
The Spuds took the short field and turned it into a touchdown on just three carries from Karson Wendt–including a six-yard score.
Another sputtering drive by the Jacks gave Moorhead the chance to drive and score again to go up 28-13, once again finishing the drive with a touchdown run by Wendt.
Badly in need of a touchdown, the Lumberjacks got it on their next drive when Reece Mostad powered through the line for a 24-yard gallop to put six on the board–though a failed two-point try left the Jacks down 28-19.
Moorhead remained content to run sweep after sweep off the edges of their imposing offensive line, using a combination of Hrdlicka and Wendt to both grind clock and find the end zone. Hrdlicka posted his third touchdown of the night on the next drive with a 12-yard run that extended the lead to 35-19 for the Spuds.
Life again returned to the home side on the next drive when Biehn took an option pitch from Neadeau and turned it into a 54-yard footrace for a touchdown–which, coupled with a two-point conversion from Biehn, suddenly had Bemidji only down by a possession.
Another lengthy drive by Moorhead burned more clock off on the next possession, but the Spuds left a small window of opportunity with less than a minute to go when a 4th-down pass fell incomplete in the end zone. However, with no timeouts and very little time left, the Lumberjacks could not piece together one last drive and dropped to a third straight loss to begin the season.
Biehn posted 106 rushing yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries, while Yeung ran three times for 94 yards and the long touchdown. Neadeau was 5-of-13 passing for 55 yards while also rushing eight times for 40 yards.
Hrdlicka rushed for 149 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries, while Wendt also ran 21 times for 121 yards and two scores. Moorhead quarterback Gavin Quade added 141 yards through the air on 10-of-15 passing as the Spuds racked up 411 yards of offense without turning the ball over.
Bemidji (0-3) will now look to another rivalry game as it travels to Brainerd to play for Babe’s Bell on Friday at 7pm.
Postgame interview with Bemidji head coach Bryan Stoffel: