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Chris Murphy, Published November 16 2013

Mahnomen headed to Class 1A state championship game to defend its title

MINNEAPOLIS – Mahnomen’s football team isn’t looking to win any beauty contests. They win football games, and they do it in a way that is in no way appealing to the eye. The scoreboard, however, is gorgeous to the Indians.

“Play ‘D’ and win ugly,” Mahnomen coach John Clark Jr. said. “That’s good enough for us. I’d rather be winning ugly here in November than sitting at home pretty.”

After Saturday’s 19-0 win over Bethlehem Academy at the Metrodome, Mahnomen has pushed the longest active winning streak in Minnesota to 27 games, notched its eighth shutout of the season and punched a ticket to the Class 1A state title game for the third consecutive season.

There’s a pretty scientific way to how Mahnomen plays.

“How we win is we just play,” Mahnomen senior tight end/defensive back Nathan Hanson said. “If you get 3 yards first down, 3 yards second down, 3 yards third down, 3 yards fourth down, it adds up to 12. And that’s more than 10, and that’s all we want. As long as we’re doing that, we’re going to get in the end zone.”

Mahnomen (13-0) did Saturday what they’ve done all season: Run the ball and play defense. The Indians rushed for 255 yards on offense and had three sacks and forced four turnovers.

“We have kids that step up, kids that haven’t played much at all on the varsity season,” Clark Jr. said. “They come in and, if they’re a senior, they play like they’re a third-year starter. If they’re a sophomore, they play like they’ve been there for two years. It’s amazing.”

Hanson recovered a fumble on a Mahnomen punt that gave the ball to the Indians at the Bethlehem Academy 18-yard line. Running back Austin Reitan used two rushes to get the 18 yards and put Mahnomen on the scoreboard 7-0.

Bethlehem Academy (9-4) had a chance to get momentum back. The Cardinals opened the second quarter with a first-and-goal from the Mahnomen 3-yard line. An illegal substitution and holding penalty made it first-and-goal from the 21. After an incomplete pass and two rushing plays made it fourth-and-goal from the 11, a false start made it fourth-and-goal from the 16. The Cardinals went for it, and Trevor Haugo sacked quarterback Kollin Hanson.

“They did exactly what we wanted to do,” Clark Jr. said. “We wanted to run the ball and play defense. We gave up some plays on defense, but I thought we did a good job stiffening up when we had to.”

Mahnomen answered with the typical Indians drive. They went 76 yards in 6 minutes, 25 seconds on 14 rushing plays, capping the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run for Tom Pavek to make it 13-0.

“That’s the way we want to win,” Pavek said. “Just run it down the middle and drive it down the field every possession. We always win the next play and we fight through it.”

Pavek found Hanson for a 29-yard touchdown pass to make it 19-0 on Mahnomen’s opening drive of the second half. That’s all the Mahnomen defense would need, as the Indians gave up just 44 net yards in the second half.

The state title game will be poetic, as Mahnomen will take on the last team to beat the Indians in Dawson-Boyd at 10 a.m. Nov. 30 at the Metrodome. It was Nov. 25, 2011, when Mahnomen lost to D-B in the state title. Hanson played in that game and has played in all 27 wins since. He couldn’t think of a better way to end his career.

“We want them,” Hanson said. “We want to get this trophy just like we wanted it two years ago. We’re going to finish it out.”

B 0 0 0 0– 0

M 7 6 6 0–19

M-Reitan 12 run (Pavek kick)

M-Pavek 1 run (kick missed)

M-Hanson 29 pass from Pavek (pass failed)


RUSHING: M, Pavek 14-97, Lefebvre 7-32, Reitan 17-91, Haugo 5-28, Bjorge 7-19. B, Brogden 3-23, Von Ruden 18-116, Glenzinski 7-24, Matejcek 1-0, Hanson 7-3.

PASSING: M, Pavek 1-3-0 29 yards. B, Hanson 4-11-2 49 yards.

RECEIVING: M, Hanson 1-29. B, Glenzinski 1-25, Novak 1-9, Matejcek 1-10, Brogden 1-5.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548