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Mahnomen shuts down Cardinals, advances to finals

Mahnomen running back Austin Reitan (30) dives for the end zone and the Indians’ first touchdown during the first quarter of the Minnesota State Class 1-A semifinal game in the Metrodome last Saturday morning. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham

The formula remained the same for the Mahnomen Indians and it resulted in a familiar ending, that being another victory.

But this win separates itself a bit from their 12 other ones, as the Indians (13-0) advanced to their third-straight Class 1A state championship game by posting their eighth shutout of the season with a 19-0 triumph over Bethlehem Academy (9-4) in the semifinals inside the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

“The kids just keep doing what we do best and that’s run the ball and play great defense,” said Mahnomen head coach John Clark Jr. “The defense made plays in key situations and when we had to make a play, they made a play.”

The Mahnomen defense stiffened four times on fourth down plays by Bethlehem, forcing turnover by downs four times, twice inside the Indian 15 yard line.

The Indians also forced four turnovers, which included two interceptions by sophomore secondary player Kody Lefebvre and two fumble recoveries by senior Nathan Hanson.

The first fumble recovery came on Mahnomen’s first series, after they were forced to punt after their 13-play drive stalled on the Mahnomen 43.    

But the punt was mishandled by the Cardinal returner, as Hanson promptly pounced on it on the Cardinal 18.

Two plays later, senior running back Austin Reitan was in for a 12-yard rushing touchdown.

“That was a huge momentum swing for us,” said sophomore quarterback Tom Pavek, who led the Indians with 97 rushing yards on 14 carries.

The Indians’ challenge on defense was to contain Bethlehem junior running back Christian Von Ruden.

Although the shifty and hard-rusher of the Cardinals gained a game-high 116 yards on the ground, he wasn’t able to find the end zone.

The Cardinals moved the ball well between the 20’s, but when he field was shortened inside the red zone, the Indians didn’t budge.

Bethlehem had two prime opportunities to set the tone in the first half by driving down inside the Indian 10 yard line, the first resulting from a 54-yard run by Von Ruden, which eventually set The Cardinals up first and goal from the Mahnomen three.

But three penalties on Bethlehem and a stout stand by the Indian defense, resulted in a failed fourth and goal from the 16 play, ending on a sack by senior Trevor Haugo.

“We knew they were a running team and our defense is pretty good against the pass and run,” Lefebvre said. “When they were forced to pass, we were able to get a good pass rush on.”

Mahnomen drove the field from their own 24 after the turn over on downs and used 14 plays to end with a Pavek one-yard plunge for a 13-0 advantage.

During the drive, Mahnomen ran the ball all 14 plays by five different rushers, which picked up five first downs, including a fourth and one from their own 34.

It also gave Mahnomen a dangerous two-possession lead.

“When we can get a two-score lead, we are usually siting pretty good with the way our defense plays,” Clark said. “We knew we had to be disciplined in the gaps against Von Ruden and I thought we were pretty physical up front.”

Bethlehem again drove the ball to the Mahnomen six yard line, but failed to converted a fourth and one, with Mahnomen holding a 13-0 halftime lead.

The long drives by the Cardinals dried up in the second half, as they were forced to pass, which played into Mahnomen’s hands perfectly.

Bethlehem could manage to pick up only four first downs in the second half, while Mahnomen played ball control with longer drives.

Pavek ensured a larger lead, as well, after pulling off a play action pass to Hanson, who was able to tip the ball away from the Cardinal defender and make an amazing juggling catch from 29 yards out and a 19-0 margin.

From there, it was typical Mahnomen football, as they stifled any Cardinal threat, since they were only to penetrate to the Indian 40 in the third and fourth quarters.

“We saw they were biting on the play action, so we went to it and (Hanson) was wide open,” Pavek said of the 29-yard TD pass. “The defense may have given up some bigger plays, but when it counts, they pounded it back.”

Reitan complimented Pavek well in the rushing game with 91 yards on 17 carries, while the Indians outrushed the Cardinals by a 255-126 margin.

Pavek threw the ball three times, completing only one, which counted for six points on his 29-yard TD toss to Hanson.

Cardinal quarterback Kollin Hanson was 4-11 with two interceptions and 49 yards. He was sacked three times.

Mahnomen is now 2-0 against Bethlehem all-time, with the other victory coming in last year’s championship game.

Next up will be another familiar foe in Dawson-Boyd (10-1), which defeated the Indians in the 2011 Class 1A championship game.

The Blackjacks downed Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s 27-18 in the other semifinal matchup.

“We have kept an eye on each other all season,” Clark said. “The last time, Dawson-Boyd made the key plays and we turned the ball over too much.”

The Class 1A state title game will be Saturday, Nov. 30, inside the Metrodome, starting at 10 a.m.

Class 1A state semifinals at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Saturday, Nov. 16: Mahnomen vs. Bethlehem Academy

Indians    7  6  6  0 – 19

Cardinals 0  0  0  0 – 0

Scoring Summary:

1st 05:59 MAHNOMEN - Reitan,Austin 12 yd run (Pavek,Tom kick) 2 plays, 18 yards, TOP 0:35

2nd 03:35 MAHNOMEN - Pavek,Tom 1 yd run (Pavek,Tom kick failed) 14 plays, 76 yards, TOP 6:25

3rd 08:40 MAHNOMEN - Hanson,Nathan 29 yd pass from Pavek,Tom (Pavek,Tom pass failed) 3 plays, 72 yards, TOP 0:55

RUSHING: Mahnomen-Pavek,Tom 14-91; Reitan,Austin 17-91; Haugo,Trevor 5-28; Lefebvre,Kody 7-26; Bjorge,Bob 7-19; TEAM 3-0 Bethlehem Academy-Von Ruden, Christian 18-116; Brogden,Isaiah 3-23; Glenzinski,Drew 7-20; Matejcek,Joe 1-minus 1; Hanson,Kollin 7-minus 32.

PASSING: Mahnomen-Pavek,Tom 1-3-0-29. Bethlehem Academy-Hanson,Kollin 4-11-2-49.

RECEIVING: Mahnomen-Hanson,Nathan 1-29. Bethlehem Academy-Glenzinski,Drew 1-25; Matejcek,Joe 1-10; Novak,Kyle 1-9; Brogden,Isaiah 1-5.

INTERCEPTIONS: Mahnomen-Lefebvre,Kody 2-24. Bethlehem Academy-None.

FUMBLES: Mahnomen-Pavek,Tom 2-1. Bethlehem Academy-Von Ruden, Christian 2-2; Hanson,Kollin 1-0.

SACKS (UA-A): Mahnomen-Large,Gabe 1-0; Haugo,Trevor 1-0; Francis,Kurt 1-0. Bethlehem Academy-Putrah,Turner 1-0.

TACKLES (UA-A): Mahnomen-Lefebvre,Kody 5-0; Reitan,Austin 5-0; Haugo,Trevor 5-0; Handyside,Kal 4-0; Bjorge,Bob 4-0; Francis,Kurt 3-0; Sanchez,Anthony 3-0; Liebl,Levi 3-0; Hanson,Nathan 2-0; Lefebvre,Kole 2-0; Large,Gabe 2-0; Warnsholz,Luke 2-0; TEAM 1-0; Francis,John 1-0. Bethlehem Academy-Matejcek,Joe 7-0; Putrah,Turner 7-0; Clark,Sam 7-0; Tousignant, Brandt 5-0; Glenzinski,Drew 5-0; Clark,Pete 5-0; Mayer,Garrett 4-0; Novak,Kyle 3-0; TEAM 2-0; Glenzinski, Peyton 2-0; Chadderdon, Tanner 1-0; Brazil,Bryan 1-0; Reiser, Jacob 1-0; Brogden,Isaiah 1-0; Von Ruden, Christian 1-0

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.