Dragons earn third straight victory, win ‘Battle Axe’ for first time since 2008
In a tale of two halves, the MSUM football team didn’t let a halftime deficit deter them from earning their third win in a row and fourth overall in the season.
Bemidji State controlled most of the first half on both sides of the ball, but the Dragons scored late in the second quarter on a 10-yard pass from quarterback Jake Hodge to wide receiver Adam Jiskra to put the Dragons on the board. The teams went into halftime with Bemidji leading 10-7.
At the end of the third quarter, the Dragons trailed by 10. That’s when Hodge and the offense took control of the game and didn’t look back.
Scoring the first of four touchdowns for the Dragons in the fourth quarter, Hodge ran in for a 37-yard touchdown and after the extra point, the Dragons were within three.
“Hodge’s run really turned the momentum in our favor,” head coach Steve Laqua said.
After Hodge’s run, the defense came up big forcing a three-and-out for the Beavers and setting up a great field position for the Dragons.
“We played really good defense, and in the second half the offense really kicked into gear,” senior defensive lineman Mike Mann said.
With the Dragons within three, they continued their scoring with a 3-yard run by sophomore running back Zayne Medhaug. Wes Kramer kicked the extra point, and the Dragons had their first lead of the game.
The team didn’t look back once they had the lead. The Dragons scored 28 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to seal the victory, 35-17.
“Our defense made a lot of big plays and gave the momentum to the offense. And the ‘O-line’ played big, picking up the blitzes and twists, which gave me time to throw the ball,” Hodge said.
Hodge was one of the leaders on offense for the Dragons. He threw for 286 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns.
Playing in their third trophy game of the season, the Dragons came in with a 1-1 record in the games thus far. With the Beavers controlling almost three-fourths of the game, the axe looked like it was going to go back with Bemidji, but the Dragons weren’t going to let it leave Moorhead.
The axe, dating back to 1929, had been won by the Beavers the last four years, but the Dragons showed the hard work that they have been putting in throughout the season and offseason.
“This win is encouraging, and it shows we are making progress. We have really worked hard and filling our program with men of character, doing the things that winners do,” Laqua said. “It’s a cause and effect world. We are at the point where the men are starting to reap the benefits.”
All aspects of the game were clicking for the Dragons, leading them to their third straight win in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference action. Hoping to finish the season on a four game winning streak, the team will travel to St. Cloud to finish out the regular season.
“Next week when we play a playoff team, how close we are to the hump… we aren’t over it yet but it is the closest we have been,” Laqua said.
The team has a 4-2 record in the NSIC north and is in third place. Laqua said the team went out to chase the teams around them in the conference, and that they are getting closer to where they need to be.
With the team having both the “Paddle” from the game against the University of Mary and the “Axe” from Saturday’s game, the Dragons are riding the momentum of strong play.
“We had a complete game, and it was a total team win,” Mann said.
With strong play from everyone on the team, Hodge pointed that the team has confidence to make the big plays in the games and to keep moving forward.
The Dragons final game of the season is at 1 p.m. on Saturday in St. Cloud when the team takes on the Huskies in NSIC action.
BY BREANN LENZMEIER