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Brian Wierima / Forum Communications Co., Published November 24 2012

Mahnomen wins Minnesota Class 1A state championship

MINNEAPOLIS – Entering the 2012 season, the Mahnomen Indians were considered one of the best Class 1A teams in Minnesota.

After Saturday, the Indians are officially the best after beating Bethlehem Academy of Faribault 20-14 inside the Metrodome for the Class 1A state championship.

The victory concludes a perfect season by No. 1 ranked Mahnomen, which finishes with a record of 14-0 and claims the school’s seventh state title.

“I told the kids before the game, to respect the tradition, you add to the tradition,” said Mahnomen head coach John Clark Jr., who also won his first state championship. “This was their time, their championship.”

The Indians didn’t use anything fancy to take down the Cardinals (11-4) by employing exactly what got them to the championship game – a strong rushing attack and a stingy defense.

“We basically ran two plays over and over, the veer and midline, and they couldn’t stop it,” said senior lineman Jacob Hedstrom. “This is due to 100-percent effort, we pride ourselves on doing the small details well.”

Senior quarterback Jacob Pavek added to his Mahnomen career by leading the Indians with 153 rushing yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns.

Over and over, Pavek and the Mahnomen offense picked up their third downs, with a conversion rate of 10 out of 15.

“It was all on the offensive linemen,” Pavek said of the team’s rushing success, which went for 288 yards on 60 carries. “On third down, we just executed well.”

Those third-down conversions led to long, drawn out drives, which usually ended in the end zone.

The first Indians scoring drive came on the first series of the game, which went for 10 plays and 76 yards. Pavek capped it with an 18-yard veer option touchdown.

After a booming punt by the Cardinals landed Mahnomen on their own 4, the Indians carved out a near Prep Bowl record drive.

Mahnomen put themselves in third and short positions, as they converted four third downs and one fourth-and-2.

The drive ate up 96 yards, 19 plays and eight minutes, 44 seconds off the clock. The marathon of a drive was capped by a Pavek one-yard plunge to put the Indians up 14-0, after the two-point conversion pass to Nathan Hanson.

Overall, Mahnomen owned the time of possession, holding the ball for a grand total of 31:20, compared to Bethlehem Academy’s 16:40.

“Our plan was to play keep away from them,” Clark said. “In the first half, the kids executed well. Pavek just read the defense well and made the plays.”

Using the success of their rushing attack, Pavek read the defense perfectly on fourth and five by pulling back on a play action and hitting wide receiver Hanson in stride for a back-breaking 23-yard touchdown and a 20-7 advantage with 3:25 left in the fourth quarter.

The Indians were able to put the cuffs on the big-play Cardinal offense, limiting them to 148 rushing yards and 29 passing yards by Filzen.

“Our goal was to shut down their backs,” said Pavek, who also plays defensive end. “We needed to keep them hemmed in.”

Playing in the championship game last year was also an advantage by just knowing the routine of the day.

“Mahnomen has such a strong tradition, too, and playing in a game like this isn’t foreign to us,” Hedstrom said. “It’s just amazing winning it after being ranked number one for most of the year and going undefeated.

“Everyone wants to beat the best and we got everyone’s best. That made us better and now we are the best.”

BA 0 0 7 7–14

M 6 8 0 6–20

M–Pavek 18 run (run failed)

M–Pavek 1 run (Hanson pass from Pavek)

BA–Filzen 1 run (Stadler kick)

M–Hanson 23 pass from Pavek (pass failed)

BA–Angell 15 pass from Filzen (Stadler kick)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: BA, Filzen 15-83, Langerud 11-48, Ruden 1-4, Siegfried 2-1, Clark 1-(minus-3). M, Pavek 23-151, Hoffner 21-70, Haugo 13-51, Penner 1-3, Team 2-0.

PASSING: BA, Filzen 4-7-0 29 yards. M, Pavek 2-5-2 23 43 yards.

RECEIVING: BA, Angell 2-18, Clark 2-11. M, Hanson 1-23, Schoenborn 1-20.

Wierima writes for the Detroit Lakes (Minn.) Tribune