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PREP BOWL: Mahnomen loses in title game

MINNEAPOLIS -- It was a situation the Mahnomen Indians were not used to being in, and that was trailing in a game for more than one series. It was also the way the Indians happened to get into that situation that was unlike them, as Mahnomen lost...

MINNEAPOLIS -- It was a situation the Mahnomen Indians were not used to being in, and that was trailing in a game for more than one series.

It was also the way the Indians happened to get into that situation that was unlike them, as Mahnomen lost 35-20 to Dawson-Boyd in the Minnesota Class A state football championship game Friday at the Metrodome.

The Indians had an uncharacteristic five turnovers in the loss, with two first-half fumbles being crucial, that helped the Blackjacks to 21 unanswered points for a 21-6 halftime advantage and firm control of the momentum.

Much like they have all season, the Indians started the game with a time-consuming scoring drive to go up 6-0.

But after the Blackjacks answered with a scoring drive of their own, a fumble on Mahnomen's next series on the Dawson-Boyd 42-yard line led to a downhill effect for the Indians.

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"The turnovers were huge," said Mahnomen head coach John Clark Jr. "We go down and score on our first possession and were moving it on our second one. Turnovers are really a momentum killer, and it snowballed on us from there."

A time of adjustment also was needed for Dawson-Boyd's defense, which had not seen the veer offense run like the Indians run it.

"We figured it might take a series or two to adjust to their veer offense," said Dawson-Boyd head coach Cory Larson. "I knew if we didn't make adjustments to it quickly, we wouldn't be state champs."

Dawson-Boyd did slow down the grinding offense of the Indians, putting them in more third and longs than not. That led to the Indians (13-1) converting only 2 of 7 third downs heading into their final drive, when the game already decided with the Blackjacks leading 35-14.

Dawson-Boyd did it by feeding the Indians a little of their own medicine -- with a physical presence.

"We heard all week how physical Mahnomen was, but we wanted to come out and play disciplined football and we wanted to prove we were the most physical team in the state," said D-B senior running back/linebacker Esten Weber. "Right away, they had a nice drive, but after that, we stopped them pretty good."

The Blackjacks (14-0) employed a versatile offense, led by the rushing of Weber and Justin Lee, who each had 90 yards on the ground.

Mahnomen's dangerous duo of junior quarterback Jacob Pavek and senior running back Avery Fairbanks still were able to pick up their yardage. Pavek finished with 154 yards rushing on 20 carries, while Fairbanks -- who was nursing an injured ankle -- recorded 98 yards on 25 carries.

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The state runner-up finish was Mahnomen's fourth one to go with six state titles. Dawson-Boyd won its first state football title in its first trip to the state playoffs.

"I told the kids they have nothing to hang their heads about," Clark said. "They should hold them high. We may not be state champions, but these kids sure are champions nonetheless."

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