MINNEAPOLIS -- In Dawson-Boyd's short history of playing in state football games, the Blackjacks never had known what it was like to walk around the Metrodome with that aching feeling of a loss in their stomachs.
In their fourth state tournament game in the dome, the defending Class A state champions fell victim to too many mistakes and lost to Bethlehem Academy 29-20 in the Class A state semifinals.
"It's never easy to lose," said Blackjacks head coach Cory Larson. "Especially when you get this far in the playoffs and you know how good it feels to win games like this. When you step on the field, you want to walk off with that great feeling. Unfortunately, that wasn't the way it worked out today."
The Blackjacks finished the season 11-2. Bethlehem Academy (11-2) will play Mahnomen (13-0), which lost to Dawson-Boyd in the title game last year, in next Saturday's Prep Bowl. Mahnomen edged ACGC 26-20 in Saturday's other Class A semifinal.
Justin Lee's one-yard touchdown run capped a game-opening, 16-play, 80-yard drive that chewed up more than half the first quarter. The D-B defense then held Bethlehem Academy on a fourth-down play at the Blackjacks' six yard line. It appeared that the defending champs were poised for a second-straight championship game.
Very little went right for Dawson-Boyd after that. After Dawson-Boyd's second drive stalled at the Blackjack 20 yard line, field position became an issue that continually plagued them.
BA's Christian Von Ruden returned a second-quarter punt 50 yards to set up the Cardinals at the 'Jacks' six yard line. They scored three plays later.
Von Ruden scored on a 53-yard run three minutes later to make it 14-6, and the Cardinals' Matt Siegfried intercepted a Joey Lee pass deep in the D-B end and Cards' quarterback Kyle Filzen hit Tim Angell for 22 yards and a score on the next play, making it 21-6.
D-B scored with just seconds left in the half on Justin Lee's 9-yard halfback pass to Nathaniel Huot to put the 'Jacks back in it at 21-12 at the half.
Neither team scored in the third quarter, but Joey Lee had a punt from the D-B end zone slip off his foot early in the fourth quarter. The 12-yard boot gave BA the ball at the 15 yard line and the Cards scored on Siegfried's 14-yard run one play later. An important 2-point conversion pass from hold Kollin Hanson to Blake Langerud gave the Cardinals a 29-12 lead, meaning that D-B would need at least three scores to catch up.
Dawson-Boyd put one more score on the board on Joey Lee's 20-yard pass to Michael Lee with about five minutes left but BA covered up an on-side kick attempt to all but ice the game.
"A lot of mistakes," said Joey Lee, who completed 20 of 34 passes for 213 yards, one TD but two interceptions. "We had a chance to hit on a couple of plays that we missed, and then it was a fumble or penalties or interceptions that kept us down. They're a good team, offensively and defensively, and you can't make mistakes like that against them."
BA's speed is the kind Dawson-Boyd rarely if ever saw during the season, and it made a big difference with the Cardinals winning the field position battle, he said.
"It seemed like the whole first half we were on our side of the field," Lee said. "They have a lot of speed and those two safeties kept coming up and we had a hard time running or passing. They would pressure hard but they had the speed to make up for it."
The Blackjacks entered the game averaging more than 250 rushing yards per game and more than 7 yards per carry. On Saturday, D-B managed just 76 yards on 33 carries.
"We gave them short fields and certainly at this point in the season you can't do that," Larson said. "They're too good and they'll take advantage. Our defense got some stops but we couldn't run the ball."
Justin Lee and the other Blackjacks' seniors lingered for a time in the locker room, knowing that walking out the door marked the end to their prep careers.
"After the game, we just talked about that just because we lost doesn't mean we had a bad season," he said. "We have a lot to look back at and be proud. I wouldn't have wanted to do this with anybody else. We have a lot of great players and teammates."
Class A semifinals
Bethlehem Academy 29,
Dawson-Boyd (11-2) 6 6 0 8 -- 20
Bethlehem Acad.(11-2) 0 21 0 8 -- 29
D - Justin Lee 1 run (Easton Popma kick)
B - Kyle Filzen 1 run (Issac Stadler run)
B - Christian Von Ruden 53 run (Stadler kick)
B - Tim Angell 22 pass from Filzen (Stadler kick)
D - Nathaniel Huot 9 pass from Justin Lee (run failed)
B - Matt Siegfried 14 run (Blake Landerud pass from Kollin Hanson)
D - Michael Lee 20 pass from Joey Lee (Huot run)
First downs: 19 ... Rushing: 33-76 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 21-37-222-2 ... Fumbles lost: 1 ... Penalties: 6-33
Rushing: Mike Anyasike 16-46, Joey Lee 9-14, Justin Lee 3-10, Nathaniel Huot 4-10, Noah Stelter 1-(-4) ... Passing: Joey Lee 20-34-213-2, Justin Lee 1-1-9-0 ... Receiving: Huot 9-110, Michael Lee 8-78, Justin Lee 3-21, Kyler Collins 1-13 ... Punting: Joey Lee 4-130 (32.5) ... Interceptions: Joey Lee 1 ... Fumble recoveries: None ... Tackles (solo-assist): Justin Lee 7, Anyasike 6, Huot 6, Collins 5, Ryc McKesson 5, Brandon Schmitt 4, Keith Abraham 4, Joey Lee 3, Stelter 2, Aaron Tufto 2, Austin Mark 1, Jamie Arvold 1 ... QB sacks: None
First downs: 13 ... Rushing: 44-209 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 3-9-35-1 ... Fumbles lost: 0 ... Penalties: 4-56
Rushing: Blake Langerud 17-76, Christian Von Ruden 3-54, Kyle Filzen 10-40, Matt Siegfried 5-24, Adam Clark 6-15 ... Passing: Filzen 3-9-35-1 ... Receiving: Tim Angell 2-23, Clark 1-12 ... Punting: Von Ruden 1-42 (42.0) ... Interceptions: Siegfried 1, Drew Glenzinski 1 ... Fumble recoveries: Mark Mahowald 1 ... Tackles (solo-assist): Mike Beckmann 7, Glenzinski 7, Langerud 5, Von Ruden 5, Angell 5, Joe Zweber 5, Mahowald 5, Clark 4, Filzen 2, Dylan Valentyn 2, Robert Tait 2, Jacob Murray 1, Daniel Furey 1, Garrett Mayer 1, Siegfried 1 ... QB sacks: Beckmann 2, Mahowald 1