Football: Mahnomen-Waubun dominates Red Lake County to win second consecutive Section 8A championship
The Mahnomen-Waubun football team flexed its power against Red Lake County to the tune of a 32-0 Section 8A championship win. The Thunderbirds are headed to state for the second consecutive season.
FARGO – The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Top-seeded Mahnomen-Waubun visited the Fargodome at North Dakota State University to take on the third-seeded Red Lake County Rebels in the Section 8A championship game. And, in a similar fashion to a year ago, the Thunderbirds cruised to another state tournament berth.
After a perfect first half by the Thunderbirds, the Rebels found themselves playing uphill, and the hill was too big. Mahnomen-Waubun stomped Red Lake County 31-0.
The game started with an 18-play drive by the Thunderbirds, ending with an Easton Bevins one-yard rushing touchdown. A successful two-point attempt put Mahnomen-Waubun ahead 8-0 after the nearly nine-minute drive.
About a minute later, on the ensuing Rebels drive, Mahnomen-Wuabun's Dennis Ashley would snag an interception to give the Thunderbirds the ball back.
Facing a 3rd-and-11, Ashley connected with wide receiver Carter Clark for a long first-down completion to keep the drive alive.
Heading into the second quarter with the Thunderbirds still in possession, Curtis Mehr scampered in for the second Mahnomen-Waubun touchdown of the half. Another successful two-point conversion would put his team up 16-0 with 9:45 left before halftime.
The Thunderbirds ended the half with a 25-yard field goal from Tanner Stech to take a 19-0 lead into the locker room.
It was a perfect first half for the Thunderbirds. They allowed zero total first-half yards to Red Lake County. Mahnomen-Waubun had 42 first-half plays compared to nine for Red Lake County. The Thunderbirds also had the ball for 19 of the 24 minutes.
Mahnomen-Waubun head coach John Clark Jr. believed their "perfect" first-half execution set the tone for the rest of the game.
"Oh, for sure it did," he said. "When you are playing defense the entire first half, I don't care who you are, that wears on you. I thought we wore them down. It seemed like we were playing downhill, and they were playing uphill that whole first half."
"We were obviously really proud of how we did the first half, but we still needed to focus come the second half," Ashley said. "We knew we had to keep our foot on the gas pedal and control the game come the second half as well."
The Thunderbirds kept it cruising in the second half. The roaring Mahnomen-Waubun defense forced three turnovers in the final two quarters. Mahnomen-Waubun was held scoreless in the third quarter but made sure to put Red lake County away in the fourth.
With 9:30 left, Ashley found Stech for a 16-yard touchdown pass to go up 25-0. A forced fumble setup yet another Thunderbirds touchdown drive. At the two-minute mark in the fourth quarter, Curt Bellefeuille capped off a dominating night with a two-yard touchdown run to put his team up 32-0.
"Super proud of the kids. They played with guts, and they played with heart." Clark said. "We played our best game of the year on the big stage, which is all you could ask for. Across the board, offense, defense and special teams, just a tremendous effort from our guys."
The Thunderbirds' defense surrendered only 34 total yards of offense to the Rebels. Clark Jr. loved to see his defense improve yet another week.
"We have improved every week all year. They just continue to improve. To shut this team out was a huge tip of the cap to our defense. We played our positions, and we tackled well tonight."
Ashley praised the Thunderbirds' offensive efficiency.
"We made the right reads and hit our blocks right," he said. "Our lineman did everything perfect tonight."
The storyline of the past few games was the Thunderbirds losing the turnover battle but finding ways to win. In the championship game, the roles were reversed.
"Our kids are aware that we have been turning the ball over," Clark said. "They try so hard not to, but sometimes you do. Some of them are warranted, and some are a fluke. That's just going to build our confidence because when you get into these big games, turnovers are a big deal."
Offensively, Mahnomen-Waubun finished the game with 300 total yards. They had 70 plays compared to Red Lake County's 34. The Thunderbirds had 18 first downs, while the Rebels had three.
Ashley finished the game as his team's leading rusher with 133 yards on 24 attempts. He also threw for 57 yards and a touchdown. Bevins, Mehr, and Bellefullie all found the end zone for a rushing touchdown.
Carter Clark was the leading receiver for the Thunderbirds, with three catches for 37-yards. Stech caught a 16-yard touch pass for his only reception of the night and nailed a 25-yard field goal. Mike Weaver was the team's leading tackler with 4.5 total tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss.
There's still work to do for the Thunderbirds.
"The plan is to get better on Monday," Clark said.
Ashley mentioned that same mentality about continuing their success in the state tournament.
"Keep working hard at practice and not taking any days off," he said. "Practice now is more mental reps than physical reps because we want to stay healthy. We need to continue to get better."
MAHNOMEN-WAUBUN 8 11 0 13- 32
RED LAKE COUNTY 0 0 0 0- 0
SCORING: FIRST QUARTER- 3:17 MW- Easton Bevins 1-yard rushing TD 2 pt attempt GOOD
SECOND QUARTER- 9:45 MW- Curtis Mehr 1-yard rushing TD 2 pt attempt GOOD 16-0
0:08 MW- 25-yard field goal attempt by Tanner Stech GOOD 19-0
FOURTH QUARTER- 9:30 MW Dennis Ashley to Tanner Stech 16-yard passing TD 2 pt attempt NO GOOD 25-0
2:15 MW- Curt Bellefuille 2-yard rushing TD PAT GOOD 32-0
OFFENSIVE STATS: PASSING- QB Dennis Ashley 5-8, 57-yards, 1 TD RUSHING QB Dennis Ashley 24 attempts, 133-yards; RB Jameson Donner 11 attempts, 42-yards; RB Easton Bevins 12 attempts, 32-yards, 1 TD; RB Curtis Mehr 5 attempts, 17-yards, 1 TD; RB Curt Bellefuille 5 attempts, 17 yards, 1 TD; RB Joe Slette 3 attempts, 2-yards RECEIVING- WR Carter Clark 3 receptions, 35-yards; WR Tanner Stech 1 reception, 16-yards, 1 TD, WR Tyson McArthur 1 reception, 6-yards
DEFENSIVE STATS: Mike Weaver 4.5 TOT, 3 solo, 3 assist, 1 sack, 2 TFL; Lex McDougall 3.5 TOT, 3 solo, 1 assist, 2 sacks, 2 TFL; Easton Bevins 3 TOT, 3 solo; Brok Spalla 2.5 TOT, 2 solo, 1 assist, 1 sack, 1 TFL; Jacob Littlewolf 2.0 TOT, 2 solo; Tanner Stech 1.5 TOT, 1 solo, 1 assist; Curtis Mehr 1 TOT, 2 assist, 1 INT; Tyson McArther 1 TOT, 1 solo, 1 TFL; Dominic Lyons 1 TOT, 1 solo; Kobe Weaver 1 TOT, 1 solo; Tate Ose 1 TOT, 1 solo; Dennis Ashley 0.5 TOT, 1 assist, 1 INT; Brody Lhotka 0.5 TOT, 1 assist; Carter Clark 0.5 TOT, 1 assist; Dawson Darco 0.5 TOT, 1 assist