MINNEAPOLIS -- The Fertile-Beltrami Falcons broke a 22-22 tie with 6:16 to play in the fourth quarter Friday morning, lifting them to a 30-22 victory over Section 3 champion Hills-Beaver Creek in the semifinals of the state 9-Man football tournament.
Playing at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, the Patriots and the Falcons engaged in a rigorous battle. Hills-Beaver Creek scored first and took a 14-6 lead into halftime. Fertile-Beltrami scored twice in the third quarter to lead 22-14. H-BC evened the score early in the fourth quarter but gave up the winning touchdown to workhorse running back Everett Balstad -- his fourth touchdown of the day.
Fertile-Beltrami, 13-0, will play for the state championship Saturday morning at 10 a.m. against LeRoy-Ostrander, a 49-0 winner over Kittson County Central in the other 9-man semifinal. H-BC ends its season at 10-3.
Hills-Beaver Creek finished on the losing side of Friday’s showdown despite racking up 23 first downs to the Falcons’ 14. The Patriots’ hard-running senior running back, Cole Baker, rushed 24 times for 123 yards as his team totaled 214 yards on the ground. Balstad carried 20 times for 136 yards as FB totaled 146 yards rushing. The Falcons passed for 137 yards and H-BC passed for 71.
Hills-Beaver Creek scored on the first possession of the game, moving steadily from its own 18-yard line until Baker tallied the touchdown on a third-and-goal carry from the 2-yard line. The conversion was no good.
Fertile-Beltrami answered with 3:18 remaining in the first quarter on a 20-yard pass from quarterback Rylin Petry to Balstad. A 2-point conversion failed and the score was deadlocked at 6-6.
Then it was H-BC’s turn. With just 19 seconds remaining till intermission, quarterback Oliver Deelstra found 150-pound senior wide receiver Drew Leenderts over the middle for a 20-yard score. Leenderts caught the pass on the FB’s 1-yard line and fell forward for six. This time the Pats completed the 2-point conversion on a Casey Kueter run.
The third quarter, however, belonged to the Falcons. Taking the second half kickoff, the Section 6 champs scored on a 5-yard Balstad run, and the 2-point conversion was good. Later in the quarter FB set up near midfield after a Hills-Beaver Creek punt and moved decisively toward another TD. It was Balstad again, scoring with 1:29 left in the quarter on a 29-yard run.
After the ensuing kick, H-BC started on its own 32-yard line but possession was turned back over to FB when Baker came up short on a fourth-and-one carry at the 41 with 4:45 remaining.
Fertile-Beltrami moved steadily forward, but the drive stalled deep in H-BC territory with just 59 seconds to go. The Patriots took over at their own 5-yard line out of time-outs, and didn’t get far.
Final totals showed Kueter with 39 yards rushing on nine carries. Ty Bundesen carried three times for 30 yards and Deelstra, who completed seven of 10 passes for 71 yards, carried 12 times for 44 yards.
Defensively, Deelstra and Max Scholten each had eight tackles for the Patriots, and Kueter had seven.
Balstad, who rushed for 1,600 yards on the season heading into the H-BC game, was held in check by H-BC’s defense in the first half, but he could not be contained through four quarters.
Hills-Beaver Creek 6 8 0 8 -- 22
Fertile-Beltrami 6 0 16 8 -- 30