Braham defeats Barnum in Section 7A championship: Braham had to overcome a frustrating flag-filled first half, and they came out rejuvenated in the second half to defeat defending champ Barnum 28-20 in the Section 7A championship Oct. 31 at Duluth Public Stadium. The victory sends the Bombers (11-0) to the Class A State tournament where they will open Nov. 8 at St. Cloud State University.
The Halloween weather was decent in Duluth for the afternoon kickoff of the section finals, and both offenses came out clicking. Tristan Marthaler hauled in a 26-yard scoring pass from John Larson on Braham’s first possession, but Barnum answered right back with a 28-yard Zac Carlson TD run to knot the game at 6-6.
Braham’s next drive was ended on a 4th-and-4 sack, then Barnum rolled behind QB Brandon Newman sweeps to get inside the Braham 10. On third down, however, senior cornerback Quinn Richmond picked off a pass at the goal line and broke upfield for a 47-yard return.
A holding call set the Bombers back right away, then on third down Larson did a Tarkenton-like scramble and hit Noah Bone way downfield. But that play was also called back because of a hold.
Richmond leaped to snare his second pick of the game on Barnum’s ensuing possession, setting up the offense at the Barnum 26. A Marthaler catch had Braham inside the 10, then Larson worked toward the goal line. But he shuttled the ball to Elijah Overton in the end zone, and the correct illegal forward pass call was made. Zach Dahlman then just missed a diving attempt on the fourth down pass, keeping the Bombers down 14-6 at the break.
During halftime, the Braham Pep Band played Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” and that seemed to be the theme for the Bombers in the second half.
On Braham’s second series of the second half, Overton bounced outside on a run and broke to the end zone, caught at the 2 by Barnum’s Cody Shelgren. Braham was facing a 3rd-and-goal at the 1 when Larson delivered a perfect play-action toss to Sonny Foote coming out of the backfield for the score, getting the team to within 14-12.
Barnum’s Carlson then got behind the Braham secondary and juked his way for a 64-yard TD reception that upped his team’s lead to 20-12 with one minute left in the third quarter.
But right back came the Bombers when Dahlman flew past the Barnum defense for a 48-yard scoring play. Bone went low for the two-point catch, and the Bombers tied the game at 20-20.
“I went to our coach with an idea that came to me. I would go in motion, run a flag, everybody else clears out. Sure enough, it was open. That was a little something Zach called out there,” said Dahlman about the TD catch.
A combination of false starts and good hits by the Bombers stalled Barnum’s next chance, forcing a punt. On second down, Overton took in a screen pass, picked up some great downfield blocking and burst away on a 63-yard scoring play. Marthaler added the two-point catch, and just like that the Bombers led 28-20 with 6:47 remaining.
The Braham defense continued to pick up steam, stripping the ball from Carlson for a turnover. On Barnum’s next series, Overton snared a tipped pass for an interception at the Braham 47. The Bomber offense wore some time off the clock while Barnum burnt its timeouts, then punted with 36.4 seconds left. Larson officially sealed the win by picking off a fourth interception on a desperation pass at midfield.
On the team’s defensive adjustments, Dahlman described, “At halftime we talked about it, and we came out with a new game plan. The whole reason why we were losing in the first half was because our line was getting pushed back. We always say, the offensive and defensive lines will win or lose the game. The second half, we played like we normally play, and we won the game. So we’re going back to State– this is a Happy Halloween!”
“This is amazing. It feels just like an early Christmas. I am just so proud of my guys for being resilient, coming out in the second half and coming back to win,” added captain Alex Sutton who led the cheering after the handshakes. “Hats off to Barnum– they’re a great team. They made us feel worried out there. The first half we were flat, but the second half we played hard-nosed football.”
The State trip is Braham’s sixth since 1995, and the second since Coach Shawn Kuhnke took over as head coach.
“Being down 14-6 at halftime, if we would have allowed ourselves to stay frustrated we may not have had the push in the second half that took us over the top. We made some big plays in the second half that really got us back into it,” said Coach Kuhnke as the players headed off the field. “To a man in the locker room, we all said we’re going to come back and win this one. We stayed with the game plan, we stayed confident, we believed in each other, and our guys did it. I’m so proud of our kids. Barnum had a heckuva game plan coming out. They are so well coached– Brian Robertson does a great job with those guys. But our guys played them hard, and I couldn’t be more prouder right now.”
Class A Quarters: Braham vs. Dawson-Boyd
Lining up against Braham for the 5 p.m. Class A quarterfinals at SCSU will be Dawson-Boyd who earned their third straight State berth. The Blackjacks (10-1) won the Class A title in 2011 and lost in the semifinals last year. They blanked Wabasso 28-0 in the Section 5A finals on Friday.
“Dawson-Boyd is a very good football team. Their only loss is to Minneota who is in the Class AA State tournament,” described Coach Kuhnke. “They return five offensive starters from a year ago. Their QB has passed for over 1,700 yards, they have a 6’5” wide receiver target that can leap and is very fast, and they have two runningbacks that each have over 1,000 yards this season. They are big up front, and they seem like they have flashes of being dominant.”
Braham will counter with its multi-weapon offense and a defense which allowed just 32 points in the section playoffs.
“It’s not just one or two guys out there making plays for us. It can be anyone on the field on any given play, and our guys believe that. We’ve got 11 guys out on the field, and all 11 are special,” said Coach Kuhnke. “We’re excited that we’re section champions. We’re one of eight teams left in this class, but we’re not going in with the idea that we’re happy just to make State. We’re going to work hard all week long, we’re going to game plan just like we would any other week, and we’re going to give it our best shot in the first round of the State tournament, and that sounds pretty good to me.”
In Braham’s half of the “A” brackets are also undefeated Sleepy Eye and Lester Prairie (8-3). Defending State champ Mahnomen (11-0) is in the other half, taking on Upsala-Swanville (10-1). The other quarterfinal match is between Bethlehem Academy (8-3) and Tracy-Milroy (8-3).
Braham 28, Barnum 20
First downs 9 14
Rushing 20/88 43/231
Passing 24/12/0 15/6/4
Passing Yds 244 121
Total Yds 352 332
Bomber Individual Stats: Rushing: Overton 9/71; Foote 3/10; Larson 7/7. Passing: Larson 24/12/0- 244 yds, 4 TD. Receiving: Overton 2/80, TD; Dahlman 2/65, TD; Marthaler 3/60, TD; Bone 2/24; Richmond 2/14; Foote 1/1, TD. Tackles: Clemmer 10, Dahlman 8, Larson 8, Sutton 8, Held 6, Braund 6, Richmond 5, Overton 5, Smith 4.