The No. 4 Fertile-Beltrami Falcons held top-seeded Mahnomen-Waubun off the scoreboard for the first quarter but the Thunderbirds overcame the slow start to advance to the Section 8A championship game with 31 straight points in a 31-6 victory at Mahnomen high school Saturday, Oct. 27.
The Falcon defense was on the field nearly the entire first quarter as the Falcons’ offense ran only seven plays for 11 yards in the opening 12 minutes.
Two Thunderbird drives were thwarted at the Falcon 10-yard line on an interception of Jon Starkey by the Falcons’ Dylan Pearce and a stop on downs at the Falcon 15-yard line.
Mahnomen-Waubun got on the board completing an 11-play, 53-yard drive with a Starkey four-yard pass to Treston Spalla and Starkey’s conversion run for an 8-0 lead at 5:17 of the second quarter.
The Falcons forced another turnover on the T-Birds next drive but again had to punt the ball back with just over a minute remaining in the half.
A defensive stop and an 8-0 deficit at halftime would have been a victory for the visitors, but Starkey went to the air connecting with Jayden Heisler for 27 yards, Tayvis Zima for 11 and a 13-yard Starkey run put the nose of the ball at the goal line with seven-seconds remaining.
Parker Syverson made the plunge and lineman Jeffrey Cukla converted the point-after run for a 16-0 lead at the break.
The Thunderbirds pulled away in the second half scoring on a Zima 36-yard reception from Starkey midway through the third quarter and Chandler Guinn’s two-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
Mahnomen-Waubun’s defense was stout allowing only 135 total yards, 106 rushing to the Falcons (6-4). The Thunderbird offense had 431 yards, 102 passing and 329 rushing.
Syverson led all rushers gaining 150 yards on 18 carries. Starkey had 18 runs for 82 yards. Zima and Spalla had two receptions each and Spalla led the defense with five solo tackles.
The Thunderbirds improved to 9-0 and will face Polk County West (8-2) in the section championship game at Fargodome Thursday, Nov. 1 at 8 p.m.