BEMIDJI – The long road trips, at least for the regular season, are over and the Bemidji High School football team will enjoy the home-field advantage 7 p.m. today when it battles Sauk Rapids and again Wednesday when the season will end against Sartell.
“I would think that the boys are sick of travelling,” said BHS coach Troy Hendricks. “I know that I am. I’m very happy that we will be home Friday and again on Wednesday. And today is Parent’s Night and Youth Football Night so we’ll have a nice crowd and a great atmosphere.”
Today’s opponent is easy to scout, at least offensively, but difficult to understand.
A week ago Sauk Rapids, which employs a run-up-the-middle offense, lost 9-6 to St. Cloud Apollo, a team that hadn’t won all year. The previous week, however, the Storm upset Rocori 20-12, the defending state Class 4A champion and the team that defeated Bemidji 17-10 in that title game.
Which opponent BHS will face today remains to be seen.
“Last week Alexandria scared me and Sauk Rapids scares me this week,” Hendricks said. “After beating Rocori Sauk Rapids was ecstatic and last week they could have beaten Apollo.
“Sauk Rapids is similar to Alexandria but I think Sauk Rapids has more veterans on its roster. And they will be coming to Bemidji looking for a ‘W’.”
The Jacks defeated Alexandria 38-23 last Friday but they had to rally in the second half to record their fourth victory in six starts. After a scoreless first quarter Bemidji made enough mistakes to allow Alexandria to take a 16-7 lead at intermission.
After the break, however, BHS took control.
“In the second half (last week) the kids responded,” the coach said. “We played with emotion and we played the best half of football I have seen these kids play.”
If the Lumberjacks duplicate last week’s second-half effort they should win today. If they play like they did in the first half at Alexandria, however, the victory will be up for grabs.
“Turnovers will be a key,” Hendricks said. “Last week we gave Alexandria a short field because of our turnovers. This week we don’t want to give up that short field and I would love it if we kept having a short field.”
Sauk Rapids will not do anything fancy. Its preferred attack centers on a straight-forward running game that translates numbers into power.
“They want to put more bodies into a hole than you have defenders,” Hendricks said. “It’s a unique plan.”
In an attempt to contain the Storm Bemidji’s coaching staff is considering moving two of the team’s bigger players, Alex Johnson and Carson Hogan, to the defensive end spots.
“Against Sauk Rapids we need bigger bodies at the defensive end spots who can withstand a double team,” the coach said. “And I think Alex and Carson can be those guys.”
Getting the jump on the Storm also would make Bemidji’s job much easier.
“If we can get ahead by two or three scores, that would be great,” Hendricks said. “It’s hard for a team like Sauk Rapids to come back because it is so one-dimensional.”
The Lumberjacks also prefer to run the ball but they are not restricted to that style.
On way to the 4-2 record BHS is averaging 99.2 yards through the air and 225.5 yards on the ground.
James Hendricks has completed 34 of his 69 passes for seven touchdowns and two interceptions. Jaylen Ingalls has snared 13 passes for 236 yards and one of the TDs. Connor McNallan has eight grabs for 179 yards and five touchdowns.
Tanner Boes is the leading ground gainer with 568 yards and six scores on 88 runs. Brady Schmidt has five touchdowns and 252 yards on 36 runs.
The Lumberjacks enter today’s game seeded third in the six-team Section 7-5A and have an outside chance of finishing second and earning a first-round bye.
In order to accomplish that feat, however, BHS would have to win both of its games and Chisago Lakes or Cambridge (both 5-1) would have to tumble.
Destined for the lower three seeds are Duluth East (2-4), Duluth Denfeld (0-6) and St. Francis (0-6).
“We would love a top-2 seed in the section but we need some things to happen,” Hendricks said. “Some of those things are under our control and some aren’t. One of the things that is under our control is Friday’s game. It is extremely critical for us to win if we want a shot at moving up.”