FOOTBALL: No. 3 Jacks dominate No. 6 St. Cloud Tech, advance to part semifinals

As 30 mph gusts barreled off Lake Bemidji, the Lumberjacks made it clear — neither a biting wind chill, nor freezing temperatures, nor three first-half turnovers would stop them from accomplishing their goal. The result? A 48-14 win that moved them one step closer to a section title.

“I thought the effort was great,” head coach Bryan Stoffel said. “At times, our execution wasn’t, and that’s what we saw in the first half, at least offensively. We had I think six drives total: three touchdowns, and then three turnovers.

“So the challenge was to clean that up in the second half and use our second half as a springboard into our section semifinal game, and I thought they did a great job of that tonight.”

Bemidji quarterback Jack Larson (10) hands the ball off to senior Gemini Ellis (1) in the first half against St. Cloud Tech in the Section 8-5A quarterfinals on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Bemidji quarterback Jack Larson (10) hands the ball off to senior Gemini Ellis (1) in the first half against St. Cloud Tech in the Section 8-5A quarterfinals on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Never was it clearer that the Jacks would not be denied than when senior tight end Gavin Luksik ripped a potential interception from the grasp of a St. Cloud Tech defensive back in the second quarter. The effort transformed a possible possession change into a second-quarter touchdown that gave the Lumberjacks some breathing room and a 19-8 lead.

“It was just a deep ball, and (the wind) obviously carried it inside a little bit,” Luksik said.
“But I just saw the ball and I didn’t see anything else, and I said, ‘I got to go up and get this.’ And I did, and it was a touchdown from there.”

The wind affected the Lumberjacks’ offense, limiting their passing opportunities and encouraging them to run the ball, something they did effectively all game. Senior running back Gemini Ellis and junior slot receiver Ethan Biehn gave what have become their standard excellent performances, but they were joined by senior Jacob Kelly and newcomers like junior Jack McCrady and senior Matthieu Benhamou. The latter two combined for three rushing touchdowns, including McCrady’s 80-yard run in the first quarter.

“The wind is super hard,” Luksik said. “It definitely limits the game. And the deep ball is a lot harder for when it’s this windy because it’s hard to control.”

The Lumberjacks celebrate Jack McCrady’s (15) touchdown in the first half against St. Cloud Tech in the Section 8-5A quarterfinals on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

The Lumberjacks celebrate Jack McCrady’s (15) touchdown in the first half against St. Cloud Tech in the Section 8-5A quarterfinals on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Fortunately for Bemidji, the Tigers had to tangle with the wind too. The Jacks’ defense forced a Seth Newby interception and rendered the St. Cloud Tech offense ineffective for much of the game.

Coupled with the Lumberjacks’ consistent success on the ground, the recipe for the rout was simmering not long after the half, with BHS adding four touchdowns after the break.

“In the second half, when we were able to put drives together and get chunk plays, then you saw what happened,” Stoffel said. “We got into a rhythm. And we’re pretty tough to stop offensively when we’re going that way.

“And then also the defense just complemented us as well, just gave us the ball back. And when we got rolling, we got some good momentum going.”

The Lumberjacks bring down St. Cloud Tech’s Josh Russell (27) in the first half of a Section 8-5A quarterfinal game on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

The Lumberjacks bring down St. Cloud Tech’s Josh Russell (27) in the first half of a Section 8-5A quarterfinal game on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

The Jacks hope to carry that momentum into the semifinal matchup with the No. 2 Sabres, which will take place in Sauk Rapids at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 30. They’ll have three days to devise a new game plan to create a better result than the last time the two teams faced, a 21-6 win for Sauk Rapids-Rice.

“I think (we’ve) done a fantastic job of growing as a team on both sides of the football,” Stoffel said. “We have put ourselves in a great spot to compete for a section title, and hats off to the boys. They got us into the section semifinals. It’s our next challenge, and I know they’ll be ready.”

The Lumberjacks bring down St. Cloud Tech’s Josh Harris (10) in the first half of a Section 8-5A quarterfinal game on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

The Lumberjacks bring down St. Cloud Tech’s Josh Harris (10) in the first half of a Section 8-5A quarterfinal game on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

No. 3 Bemidji 48, No. 6 St. Cloud Tech 14

SCT 0 8 0 6 — 14

BHS 13 6 15 14 — 48

First quarter — BHS TD, Ellis 26-yard run (Peterson PAT), 7-0 BHS; BHS TD, McCrady 80-yard run (Peterson PAT no good), 13-0 BHS.

Second quarter — SCT TD, Harris 16-yard catch from Russell (2-pt conversion good), 13-8 BHS; BHS TD, Luksik 17-yard catch from Larson (2-pt conversion no good), 19-8 BHS.

Third quarter — BHS TD, Ellis 2-yard run (2-pt conversion good), 27-8 BHS; BHS TD, Ellis 15-yard run (Peterson PAT), 34-8 BHS.

Fourth quarter — BHS TD, McCrady 28-yard run (Peterson PAT), 41-8 BHS; BHS TD, Benhamou 2-yard run (Peterson PAT), 48-8 BHS; SCT TD, Russell 1-yard run (PAT no good), 48-14 BHS.

Bemidji senior Jacob Kelly (6) runs the football in the first half against St. Cloud Tech in the Section 8-5A quarterfinals on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Bemidji senior Jacob Kelly (6) runs the football in the first half against St. Cloud Tech in the Section 8-5A quarterfinals on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Bemidji senior Gemini Ellis (1) scores a touchdown in the first half against St. Cloud Tech in the Section 8-5A quarterfinals on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Bemidji senior Gemini Ellis (1) scores a touchdown in the first half against St. Cloud Tech in the Section 8-5A quarterfinals on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

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