Homecoming for the Bemidji State football team is all about making memories.
The BSU seniors walked out of Lake Bemidji soaking wet and smiling after a 20-7 win over Concordia-St. Paul on Saturday at Chet Anderson Stadium.
“This is pretty special,” Bemidji State senior safety Brody Scheff said. “We talked all week how we wanted to go out on top at homecoming and jump in the lake. We played hard and we wanted to be 5-1.”
Scheff had three interceptions and senior Dusty Sluzewicz had one interception in another strong effort by the BSU defense. Senior receiver Cameron Abram scored on a 56-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter for the eventual game-winning score.
“It means a lot to me this year because I’ve only been in homecoming three times in my time here,” Abram said. “We’re right where we want to be. The offense is rolling, the defense is making stops and everyone is making plays right now.”
The Beavers improved to 5-1 (4-1 NSIC) in the best start for the Beavers since the 2004 season. BSU stays home next Saturday to face rival Minnesota State University, Moorhead at 1 p.m. in the annual Battle for the Axe game.
Concordia (2-4 overall, 1-4 NSIC) outgained BSU in yardage 442-281 but the defense made enough key stops on scoring drives to slow the Golden Bears.
BSU quarterback Lance Rongstad passed and rushed for a touchdown. He passed for 106 yards and rushed for 52 yards. BSU running back Dustin Kroeplin rushed for a team-high 72 yards and a touchdown.
Kroeplin put the Beavers on the board with a 3-yard touchdown plunge with 5:00 left in the first quarter and Abram provided the most explosive play of the day for BSU’s touchdown in the second quarter.
Rongstad passed to Abram on a short route and he turned the catch into a 56-yard sprint down the sideline with 9:15 left in the second quarter. It gave BSU a 14-0 halftime lead.
“We started slow and shot ourselves in the foot a few times, but I thought that play really got us going again,” Abram said.
The BSU defense stopped two Concordia drives in the red zone in the first half. Sluzewicz intercepted Spencer Ohm’s pass to stop a Concordia drive in the first quarter. BSU then shut down Concordia on a four-down goal line stand to start the second quarter.
“That was a huge stop for the defense and it really helped our team,” Scheff said. “That goal line stand shows the kind of potential we have for the rest of the season.”
Concordia cut Bemidji State’s lead to 14-7 early in the third quarter on Charles Gilbert’s 46-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Jared Russo.
The Beavers answered five minutes later when Rongstad capped an 10-play drive with a 10-yard touchdown scramble through the middle of the field for a 20-7 lead.
The point after attempt was blocked and Concordia’s Denzell Blackmon returned it the length of the field. But his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for celebrating cost Concordia two points.
Scheff was the star of the second half and all three of his interceptions came in the final two quarters. His acrobatic interception in the back corner of the end zone late late in the third quarter prevented a potential 25-yard touchdown pass. Scheff had the first three-interception game for the Beavers since Corey Brewer in 2004.
The Beavers celebrated the victory by jumping into Lake Bemidji in a homecoming tradition. BSU president Richard Hanson joined the team in the lake for the second straight year to sing the school song.
“All of our seniors did a great job contributing today,” Bemidji State head coach Jeff Tesch said. “Jesse Sundby had some great punts. Dusty Sluzewicz and Brody Sheff had interceptions. Cameron Abram had a nice touchdown. Those guys on the offensive line – it was really fun to see the seniors go out as winners. They will have memories with them for years to come.”
CSP 0 0 7 0 – 7
BSU 7 7 6 0 – 20
BSU- Kroeplin 3 run (Pulkinen kick), 5:00.
BSU- Abram 56 pass from Rongstad (Pulkinen kick), 9:15.
CSP – Gibert 46 pass from Russo (Obarski kick), 9:10.
BSU- Rongstad 10 run (Pulkinen kick blocked), 4:09.
All photos by Eric Stromgren.