With a dominating defensive performance, Blaine spoiled Elk River's return to the Northwest Suburban Conference with a 28-14 victory Thursday at Elk River.

The Bengals gave up touchdowns on each of Elk River's first two possessions, then shut down the Elks' three-back attack the rest of the way.

Junior quarterback Alex Copa ran for two scores and threw for two more. The Bengals took advantage of costly Elk River mistakes to claw their way to a season-opening victory.

"The first half was a struggle," said Blaine first-year head coach Tom Develice, "but the second half was a different story. They believed in each other, they knew what they were capable of, and that's why it turned around."

The Elks, who took a two-year hiatus from the Northwest Suburban while playing in the Mississippi 8, drove inside the Blaine 20-yard line on three consecutive possessions in the second quarter. Up 14-7, the Elks failed each time to extend their lead.

A turnover on downs, a missed field goal and an interception kept Blaine within one score as the first half ended.

"That was huge for us," Copa said of the defensive stands. "That gave us some confidence going into the second half."

Blaine's no-huddle, spread offense struggled early, but the Bengals settled in after the break. Copa found Adekunle Ayinde on a 5-yard touchdown toss with 6:31 remaining in the third. He hit Connor Spurbeck on a 36-yard touchdown strike on the second play of the fourth quarter.

Copa added his second rushing touchdown with 33 seconds left.

Running backs Devin Danielson and Dennis Bardashevskiy scored touchdowns for the Elks.