Football: Becker too much for Detroit Lakes in Section 8-4A semifinal
The Detroit Lakes football team saw its season come to an end for the second consecutive year at the hands of Becker. Head coach Reed Hefta spoke about his team's ability to respond to adversity and what he wants this team to be remembered for when it's all said and done.
BECKER – It was never going to be easy for the Detroit Lakes football team to make it out of Section 8-4A this fall.
In a season marred with adversity, the Lakers’ last gasp at a special run fell short on Saturday afternoon in Becker. The second-seeded Bulldogs beat third-seed Detroit Lakes 31-14, ending its season for the second consecutive year.
“Anyone who knows football would love to have a program like (Becker),” Detroit Lakes head coach Reed Hefta said. “They execute. Even though they turned the ball over to keep us in the game, they stuck with it. It’s a team that can make a big run, and I can’t wait to see them play at The Bank.”
The defending 8-4A champions scored 17 points in the second quarter to clinch another berth in the title game.
Becker’s Ryan Bengtson hit Alex Weiss on 3rd-and-24 for a 29-yard touchdown pass before the Bulldogs took advantage of a Detroit Lakes turnover. The Lakers coughed up the ball on their 20-yard line, leading to an Isaiah Gardner five-yard touchdown run a minute later.
“It kind of takes the air out of you a little,” Hefta said. “When you lose a drive, you lose momentum. When you’re trying to come out here against a top team in the state and play with confidence, you need to take advantage of momentum when you get it. But then you have to be able to rally the troops and get back after it.”
Detroit Lakes had momentum in the first quarter. Becker started the game with the ball and drove deep into Laker territory before turning the ball over on downs.
Detroit Lakes marched down the field on the back of its run game before stalling out at the 20-yard line. Nick Buboltz’s 36-yard field goal attempt missed wide to the right, giving the ball back to the Bulldogs.
Tensions were high in the later part of the second quarter. Several unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, including the ejection of Becker senior linebacker Dylan Weber, created a stir on both sidelines.
“There’s always emotion in a game like this, especially when there’s the end of the road for one team,” Hefta said. “Playing with emotion is great, but we can’t let that emotion impact what we’re trying to do from play to play, and our guys did a good job of that. It’s tough to stay level in those moments.”
Down 17-0 after the first half, Hefta challenged his team to climb back into the game one step at a time.
The Lakers turned the ball over on downs in the red zone before senior Cody Bartnes picked off Bengtson, setting up the offense at the Becker 35-yard line. Bartnes started the season getting junior varsity minutes but ended up playing on both sides of the ball in the playoffs.
“He’s proof that hard work pays off,” Hefta said. “He took every opportunity he had and made the most of it. You never talk about playing time with a kid. You talk about opportunities to be successful. He capitalized on all of those opportunities he got.”
The interception led to a Mason Carrier three-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter.
“It’s about confidence, right? Kids need confidence,” Hefta said. “They need confidence in everything they do, and I was so happy to see these guys play with thunder the entire game.”
Bengtson got the touchdown back on the Bulldogs’ ensuing drive to take a 24-7 lead.
If there’s one thing Hefta was the proudest of on Saturday, it was his team’s ability to get off the mat. Trailing by 17 in the fourth quarter, Detroit Lakes put together another touchdown drive with 9:19 left. Carrier got into the end zone for a second time.
Despite the Lakers’ best effort, Becker put the nail in the coffin with Bengton’s third touchdown of the game. He connected with Weiss again on 4th-and-goal from the one-yard line.
“We’re that close,” Hefta said. “These kids work their butts off. It’s one of those things we can be so proud of. The first goal was to make this a one-score game, and we were right there. You miss those goals, and that’s what makes or breaks a game, but it’s also what makes high school football so amazing. You have to execute on every little thing to beat a team like this. We celebrate when kids do the little things right, and I saw a lot of right things from a lot of amazing kids today.”
Detroit Lakes finished the season 5-4 and one game short of their ultimate goal. Becker will head to Monticello on Friday for a rematch against Rocori for a spot in the Class 4A state tournament. Becker’s only loss this season came in zero week against the Spartans.
“It’s always tough ending a season,” Hefta said. “It’s hard not to think about how this is it for most of these seniors. They put their blood, sweat and tears into this program for years. I tell them, ‘It hurts because you care, and that feeling is OK.’ It’s OK to feel sad when something ends, but remember it as something you love.”
Hefta wraps up his second year at the helm of the Laker football program with a career record of 11-8. He’s proud of how his team pushed through challenging moments when the chips were down.
“They never stopped caring,” Hefta said. “They always kept battling when adversity struck. The lessons from this game carry over into life. You learn a lot when you’re coaching, especially in year two. I’ve learned so much from these kids, and they never stop impressing me. They’re champions in life.”
DL 0 0 7 7 – 14
BK 0 17 7 7 – 31
SCORING- SECOND QUARTER- BK- Ryan Bengtson 29-yard TD pass to Alex Weiss, PAT good, 7-0, 11:53; BK- Isaiah Gardner 5-yard TD run, PAT good, 14-0, 10:55; BK- Zach Bengtson 33-yard FG good, 17-0, 4:51
THIRD QUARTER- DL- Mason Carrier 3-yard TD run, Nick Buboltz PAT good, 17-7, 6:39; BK- R. Bengtson 1-yard TD run, PAT good, 24-7, 3:51
FOURTH QUARTER- DL- M. Carrier 2-yard TD run, Buboltz PAT good, 24-14, 9:19; BK- Bengtson 1-yard TD pass to Weiss, PAT good, 31-14, 2:54