Jayden Heisler was right where Mahnomen/Waubun coach John Clark Jr. expected him to be.
The Thunderbirds were clutching a precarious one-point lead. BOLD was marching downfield late in the fourth quarter, game-winning points a growing possibility with each play.
BOLD's Dawson Vosika went left and veered into a pile of players at the Mahnomen/Waubun 10-yard line. Heisler, a 5-9 bundle of grit at linebacker, attacked and wrestled the football out of Vosika's hands and corralled it in his own.
It ended BOLD's final threat and solidified first-year co-op Mahnomen/Waubun's 22-21 victory in the Class 1A championship game Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"I just kind of blitzed," Heisler said in understated fashion.
"He blitzes a lot," Clark said with a laugh. "But he's going to make plays. He's always in the middle of the pile somewhere."
It was the biggest play in a second half that saw Mahnomen/Waubun lean on what it does best to pull out the victory.
Behind quarterback Jordan Sagedahl, BOLD moved the ball crisply through the air in the first half. The Warriors rolled up 218 yards passing and got two long touchdowns en route to a 21-14 halftime lead.
But BOLD's first half was marred by an injury to 300-pound Riley Weis, the Warriors' talented offensive and defensive lineman, late in the second quarter. Weis spent the rest of the game with his arm in a sling. Mahnomen/Waubun took advantage, shutting down BOLD's running game and finding more room for its own ground attack.
The Thunderbirds finished with 269 rushing yards, including 190 by senior Parker Syverson.
"You took one of the best linemen in the state and put him on the sideline," BOLD coach Steve Solem said. "The kid who went in did a great job, but it isn't [Weis]."
Mahnomen/Waubun took the lead for the first time on a textbook Thunderbirds drive in the fourth quarter, going 72 yards on 13 plays. Quarterback Jon Starkey's 10-yard touchdown run with 5:12 left, followed by a two-point conversion by Syverson, set up Heisler's timely strip.
"We ran the ball, and we played great defense, especially in the second half," Clark said. "We did our thing."