By Howard Voigt
Mahnomen utilized an efficient ball-control running game to wear down Bethlehem Academy en route to a 20-14 win and the Class A Championship at Prep Bowl XXXI at the Metrodome. The win for the Indians was the school's seventh state football championship and their first since 1998.
The Indians took the opening kickoff and marched 74 yards in 10 plays to take a 6-0 lead. Senior quarterback Jacob Pavek capped the drive with a 17-yard touchdown run. In the second quarter, Mahnomen was pinned deep in their own territory but proceeded on a 19-play, 96-yard touchdown drive consuming 8:44. The final play of the drive resulted in a one-yard touchdown plunge by Pavek. The two-point conversion pass was successful, giving the Indians a 14-0 halftime lead.
Mahnomen outgained Bethlehem Academy 214-32 in the first half, and owned the time of possession battle by hanging on to the ball for 17:43 of the 24 minutes in the first two quarters.
The Cardinals took the ball to start the second half and marched 71 yards in 16 plays, culminating in a one-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Kyle Filzen to narrow the gap to 14-7. The Indians ball-control offense continued to eat time off the clock for most of the remainder of the game, finally icing the contest on the scoreboard with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Pavek to junior tight end Nathan Hanson late in the fourth quarter.
Pavek led the Indians on the ground with 23 rushes for 151 yards and two touchdowns. Senior running back Garret Hoffner rushed 21 times for 70 yards. Filzen threw for one touchdown and rushed for 83 yards and another score for the Cardinals.
Bethlehem Academy, which was making its debut appearance in the state football tournament, finished the season 11-3.