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High School Football: At last, Babe’s Bell comes to Brainerd

Brainerd hosts Bemidji for Babe's Bell Friday, Sept. 23

Brainerd against Bemidji on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, at Brainerd.
Brainerd's Damen Bentho runs the ball against Bemidji on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, at Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — It took five years, but the Brainerd Warriors finally got Babe’s Bell.

Led by Damien Bentho’s 226 yards and two touchdowns on 44 carries, Brainerd knocked off the Bemidji Lumberjacks in a North Central Red Subdistrict game Friday, Sept. 23, at a rainy Adamson Field.

After the handshake line, senior captain Eli Wiskow was the first to bang the traveling trophy.

“It means everything to me,” Wiskow said. “Being a senior and finally getting it home, we made the thing and we still have never gotten it. The final play of the game I saw we were in victory formation and saw that bell and blew her a kiss in the back of the end zone, because it hit me that thing was finally coming home with the Brainerd Warriors.”

Brainerd outgained Bemidji 337-129 in a wet game. The Warrior defense came away with three turnovers.

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The most important part of Bentho’s night was he did not fumble once, while Bemidji lost three fumbles.

Brainerd was able to win the turnover battle for a fifth time this season 3-1.

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“Ball security. On a night like this, we held onto the ball and that’s what it came to was turnovers,” Warriors head coach Jason Freed said. “I thought we stayed focused all game and we didn’t have that spike of emotion. We just played real steady football all game. Tonight was a grinder and we stuck with the game plan and were solid defensively.”

After the Warriors forced a punt on the first drive, Brainerd went 62 yards on nine plays, all runs, and scored a touchdown on a Bentho 2-yard run.

In the second quarter, the Lumberjacks blocked a Warrior punt and took over from Brainerd’s 44-yard line.

On the next play, Bemidji quarterback Peyton Neadeau found Ethan Biehn for a touchdown to tie the game 7-7.

The Warriors responded with a touchdown right before the half. Marcello Getty was only 2-for-8 passing for 22 yards, but one of his completions found Jake Merseth for 16 yards with 1:03 left in the first half to give Brainerd a 13-7 lead.

“We knew we were going to have to go over the top at some point in this weather tonight and Jake Merseth made another great play and Marcello threw the ball out there,” Freed said.

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In the second half, the Warriors’ defense allowed just 63 total yards to the Lumberjacks.

“As a whole, we are coming along defensively,” Freed said. “We have great leadership right now and I think the kids are building themselves some confidence. It’s fun because as the ball gets closer to the goal line they elevate themselves and that’s just a sign of maturity.”

After a muffed punt by Merseth put Bemidji in Brainerd territory, a strip sack by Mitch Wind recovered by Caleb Lange turned the Lumberjacks over.

Brainerd marched down the field, but threw an incomplete pass on fourth and goal from the 3-yard line to turn it over on downs.

The Warriors’ defense forced another 3 and out to start the fourth quarter.

“All of us just want to win the game,” Wiskow said, who plays on the defensive line. “Everyone on that D-line hates to lose more than they love to win. We always try to have that angry dog mentality.”

Brainerd put the game away with a 7-play, 60-yard touchdown drive capped off by Bentho 4-yard run which put him over 200 yards.

“We put it up on big letters in the locker room ‘ball security’ and for Damien to run 40 times and not put the ball on the ground in the pouring rain is a testament to who he is as a young man and the hard work he’s put in,” Freed said.

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The win gives the Warriors a three-game win streak all against subdistrict teams. They will look to go undefeated against subdistrict teams next week as they travel to Alexandria.

“One game at a time,” Freed said. “1-0. That’s all you have to do. We have to focus on the next one. We will enjoy this win. It’s an important win for this program. It’s been awhile since we’ve been able to beat Bemidji. But we will come back on Monday and focus on Alex.”

Wiskow added: “We are on a hot streak and it feels good to be winning these games. We just need to keep doing our thing to keep this thing rolling.”

Bemidji 0 7 0 0 — 7

Brainerd 7 6 0 6 — 19

First quarter

Brd-Damien Bentho 2-yard run (Bennett Bernander kick) 6:32

Second quarter

Bem-Ethan Biehn 44-yard pass from Peyton Neadeau (Jacob Stanoch kick) 4:28

Brd-Jake Merseth 16-yard pass from Marcello Getty (kick blocked) 1:03

Fourth quarter

Brd-Damien Bentho 4-yard run (run failed) 5:32

Team statistics

Rushes-yards: Brd 59-315, Bem 29-71

Pass comp-att-int-yds: 2-8-22, Bem 3-11-58

Total offense: Brd 67-337, Bem 40-129

Individual leaders

Rushing: Brd-Damien Bentho 44-226, Marcello Getty 9-66, Sean Holbrook 3-26; Bem-Reese Mostad 17-53, Ethan Biehin 4-24

Passing: Brd-Marcello Getty 2-8-22; Bem-Peyton Neadeau 3-11-58

Receiving: Brd-Jake Merseth 1-16, Eli Hoelz 1-6; Bem-Ethan Biehn 2-52, Quinten Yeung 1-6

Warriors 19, Bemidji 7

Key: Damien Bentho carries 44 times for 226 yards and two touchdowns as the Warriors finally capture Babe’s Bell.
Subdistrict: Brd 3-0, Bem 0-2
Overall: Brd 3-2, Bem 0-4.
Next: Brainerd at Alexandria 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30.

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or conrad.engstrom@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.

Started at the Dispatch in June of 2019.
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