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A boring offense is good enough for Mahnomen.
The Indians bored Bethlehem Academy all morning with their long drives built around short runs and held the ball long enough to limit any damage. The result, though, was more than exciting.
Mahnomen stalled Bethlehem Academy just enough to claim a 20-14 victory and the Class 1A state championship Saturday at the Metrodome. The Indians won their seventh title in program history.
“It was an offense of long boring drives,” running back Garret Hoffner said. “That’s what coach called it. Other teams can’t score when you have the ball.”
Time of possession was much more one-sided than the final score. The Indians held the ball for 31:20 compared to the Cardinals' 16:40. Hoffner was responsible for extending many of Mahnomen’s elongated drives, using his size to help convert 10 of 15 third downs and three of three fourth downs.
The senior finished with 70 yards, with a good chunk of them coming while he dragged a Cardinal defender behind him. An intensified week of practice helped provide Hoffner with the strength he needed to finish out a perfect 14-0 season. The Indians wouldn’t accept another late letdown as they experienced in last week’s semifinals.
“We were better conditioned than last week,” Hoffner said. “Last week, we were dragging. This game we were full of energy, but sustained it throughout.”
An eight-play touchdown drive, benefitted by a personal-foul penalty, with two minutes remaining in the game showed Mahnomen coach John Clark Jr. that his team had made the necessary adjustments to finish strong. Quarterback Jacob Pavek called an audible on a fourth-and-5, choosing to make one of his five passes for a 23-yard touchdown pass and what would hold up as the winning touchdown.
“They didn’t think we’d pass. I saw it,” Pavek said. “That won the game for us.”
Bethlehem Academy promptly responded with its second touchdown, but only 39 seconds remained and the on-side kick failed.
The Cardinals didn’t have enough time to make up for a bad first half. Monday’s film session did little to prepare Bethlehem Academy for Mahnomen’s defense that held it scoreless throughout the first half. Veteran assistant coach John Gross warned his players that the Indians were unbeaten because of their defense, not an impressive offense.
If there was a flaw, though, it would be a second-half letdown. Bethlehem Academy quarterback Kyle Filzen took it upon himself to get more involved on the ground and collected 82 yards and a touchdown in the second half. He also connected with Tim Angell for a touchdown pass in the final minute, but there wasn’t enough time to do more.
“The offense was starting to click, but we couldn’t stop them,” Filzen said. “They were imposing their will on us. We let them do whatever they wanted to.”
Jason Gonzalez • 612-673-4494