The Indians defeated Bethlehem Academy 20-14 Saturday for the Class 1A championship in the Prep Bowl. It's the seventh title for Mahnomen and its first since 1998.
There's nothing fancy about how Mahnomen plays football — and that simplicity has led to another state title.
With a punishing straight-ahead ground game and suffocating defense, the Indians defeated Bethlehem Academy 20-14 Saturday for the Class 1A championship in the Prep Bowl. It's the seventh title for Mahnomen and its first since 1998.
Jacob Pavek led Mahnomen (14-0) with 151 rushing yards, running for two touchdowns and throwing for another. Running a triple-option offense, the Indians finished with 275 yards rushing and just 43 passing. Garret Hoffner added 70 yards on the ground.
"To be the best is what we wanted to be," defensive lineman Jacob Hedstrom said.
Kyle Filzen passed for one touchdown and rushed for another for Bethlehem Academy (11-3), a private school in Faribault.
"It was a really good football game between two very good teams today," Cardinals coach Scott Hanson said.
Trailing 14-7, Bethlehem Academy had a chance to tie the game midway through the fourth quarter after Tim Angell intercepted Pavek in the end zone, but the Mahnomen defense forced a three-and-out. In its six series, the Cardinals ran just 37 plays — 16 on one drive. Mahnomen had 65 offensive snaps.
"Every player has their own responsibility. If we do it correctly it'll shut down their offense," said Hedstrom, who had three tackles and a sack. "We just over-shifted to where they were."
Pavek and Nathan Hanson connected on a 23-yard touchdown with just over 2 minutes to play for a 20-7 lead, but Filzen found Angell for a 15-yard touchdown with 34 seconds to play to close to within 20-14. However, Mahnomen recovered the onside kick.
Mahnomen's defense had shut out eight opponents this season and came in allowing just 119 yards per game. Bethlehem Academy finished with 162 yards of offense, 59 of which came on its scoring drive late in the game.
"Every team we get here is going to be very, very good," Hedstrom said. "We're very confident in ourselves and our team. If we all do our job we'll be fine."
Mahnomen, which scored on drives of eight, 10 and 19 plays, and had a 17-play drive end with a turnover, was 10 of 15 on third down and converted all three fourth-down attempts. The Indians never punted.
"We just executed," Pavek said. "We knew we couldn't choke or get nervous or anything. We just did our jobs the same as every other down."
Hanson lamented the impact of lost opportunities.
"If we take a couple of third downs and get some stops in the first half, we probably could have won this football game," he said.
Pavek scored from 18 yards out for a 6-0 lead midway through the first quarter, and added another score when he sneaked in from 1 yard out 4 minutes into the second. The score capped a 19-play, 96-yard drive.
Mahnomen had the ball for almost 18 minutes in the first half and gained 214 yards. Bethlehem Academy gained just 32 yards in just over six minutes of possession.
Filzen scored on a 1-yard sneak to complete a 7-minute drive to open the second half and get the Cardinals within 7 points.