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Football: Warriors fail to capitalize in regular-season finale

Bemidji 23, Warriors 7 The key: The Lumberjacks scored the game's first 23 points. Subdistrict: Brd 4-3, Bem 5-2 Overall: Brd 4-4, Bem 5-3 Next: Brainerd in Section 8-5A playoffs 7 p.m. Tuesday. BEMIDJI - Venturing inside the Bemidji Lumberjacks'...

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Bemidji 23, Warriors 7

The key: The Lumberjacks scored the game's first 23 points.

Subdistrict: Brd 4-3, Bem 5-2

Overall: Brd 4-4, Bem 5-3

Next: Brainerd in Section 8-5A playoffs 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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BEMIDJI - Venturing inside the Bemidji Lumberjacks' 30-yard line five times and not scoring doomed the Brainerd Warriors in the final game of the regular season Thursday night at Bemidji State University's Chet Anderson Stadium.

In addition, the Warriors converted three first-half turnovers into zero points.

Add all that up, and with Bemidji dominating the line of scrimmage and playing staunch defense, the Lumberjacks registered a 23-7 victory in a North Central Red Subdistrict and Section 8-5A game.

Warriors coach Ron Stolski said Brainerd had hoped to force turnovers.

"But we just really couldn't get started offensively," he said. "We had too many fourth and twos. We just couldn't get out of our own way. A couple of times especially early - because we were anxious - we started first and 15 - and first and 15 is a tough place to start against a good ballclub.

"I heard from the crowd 'Let's get some energy.' Our kids were playing their hearts out. I don't worry about the energy of our kids. When things aren't going well for you, it's human nature to get down a little bit."

The loss probably will give Brainerd the fourth seed in the section playoffs which they will likely open at home Tuesday night against Sartell-St. Stephen.

"We played some new players tonight that played pretty well," Stolski said. "(Bemidji running back Logan Hatfield) is a good back but if you would have said they would get three scores then I would have said we had a heck of game. It just didn't happen for us tonight."

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Hatfield carried a whopping 40 times for 202 yards, scored a touchdown and ran for two 2-point conversions. He had 20 attempts for 110 yards in the first half, 20 for 92 in the second. He entered the game with 1,636 yards and 17 scores.

"Logan was held in check but he was able to get eight yards, seven yards, six yards continuously all night," Bemidji coach Troy Hendricks said. "He ran the ball hard. We just put the ball on the ground a little bit too much tonight."

The Lumberjacks scored the game's first 23 points. But they won despite getting intercepted twice, fumbling the ball away twice and running 11 fewer plays from scrimmage than Brainerd.

Bemidji finished with only a 269-241 edge in total yards but its defense slammed the Warriors all night. Bemidji limited Brainerd to 82 yards in the first half and forced two turnovers.

"It was absolutely the best outing we've had out of our defense this year without question," Hendricks said. "I'm proud of our kids playing as 11 guys instead of playing individually. We were assignment-sharp and rallied to the football.

"It was very encouraging to go into the playoffs and see the defense play to the level we thought they could all year."

Brainerd's Seth Desrocher stopped the game's opening drive with a fumble recovery at the Bemidji 44. But the Warriors were stopped short on fourth and four and Bemidji took over.

Hatifield ran nine times in the subsequent possession which was capped by a 29-yard scoring pass from quarterback Jalin Rose to wide receiver Alex Vollen. Hatfield's conversion run made it 8-0 with 3:11 left in the quarter.

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The Lumberjacks recovered a fumble at the Brainerd 34 on the next series but the Warriors' Arron Martin intercepted and returned 30 yards to the Bemidji 35. But the Warriors went four and out.

Hatfield put Bemidji in front 16-0 with 9:41 left in the second quarter on a 35-yard TD run. He carried three times for 49 yards in the march and added the 2-point conversion.

Brainerd then embarked on a 14-play, 52-yard possession that came up empty. David Saxum's 42-yard field goal attempt was short and off to the right with 3:03 remaining in the half.

Tristan Brecht recovered a Bemidji fumble at the Lumberjacks' 23 but Brainerd went four and out again 1:32 before the half ended.

On the opening drive of the third, Brainerd put together a 15-play, 63-yard possession that stalled on fourth and eight at the Lumberjacks' nine following an incomplete pass in the end zone.

A Chris Pederson interception stymied the next Bemidji possession but the Lumberjacks intercepted a tipped pass four plays later. Following a penalty Rose ran for a 10-yard score. Linaes Whiting's kick made it 23-0 Bemidji with 11:54 to play.

Brainerd finally scored on its last drive - a 2-yard run by quarterback Hanson Devine. Saxum's kick closed the scoring.

"I was proud of the way our kids hung in there, particularly in the second half," Stolski said. "That was a really nice drive for the touchdown. There was no give up. I thought we executed really good in a lot of places. We just got overwhelmed in the offensive line a little bit but Bemidji had a couple of really good defensive down linemen."

Brainerd 0 0 0 7 - 7

Bemidji 8 8 0 7 - 23

First quarter

Bem-Alex Vollen 29 pass from Jalin Rose (Logan Hatfield run) 3:11

Second quarter

Bem-Hatfield 35 run (Hatfield run) 9:41

Fourth quarter

Bem-Rose 10 run (Linaeus Whiting kick) 11:54

Brd-Hanson Devine 2 run (David Saxum kick) 4:52

Team statistics

Rushes-yards: Brd 39-125, Bem 49-232

Pass comp-att-int-yds: Brd 11-24-1-116, Bem 2-6-2-37

Total offense: Brd 241, Bem 269

Fumbles-lost: Brd 1-1, Bem 4-2

Individual leaders

Rushing: Brd-Hanson Devine 7-20, Mitchell Rahn 16-53, Allen Jevning 15-28, Chris Pederson 1-6; Bem-Jalin Rose 6-24, Logan Hatfield 40-202, Alex Vollen 2-15

Passing: Brd-Hanson Devine 9-21-2-95, Chris Pederson 2-3-0-21; Bem-Jalin Rose 2-6-2-37

Receiving: Brd-Chris Pederson 3-38, Allen Jevning 4-41, Will Peabody 2-25, Charlie Geraets 1-9, Mitchell Rahn 1-3; Bem-Alex Vollen 1-29, Austin Lange 1-8

MIKE BIALKA may be reached at mike.bialka@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark .

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