Bemidji High School football: Lumberjacks head to Duluth for playoffs
The Bemidji Lumberjacks football team opens its second season tonight, traveling to Duluth to take on the East Greyhounds at 8 p.m. in the second game of a Public Schools Stadium double header.
Duluth Denfeld and Hibbing will play the 5 p.m. opener.
Other quarterfinals send Duluth Central to Cloquet for what may be the final game in the school's long history and Grand Rapids to Hermantown.
Cloquet (7-1) drew the top seed with Denfeld (5-3) seeded second, Hermantown (6-2) third and East (4-4) fourth.
Bemidji was seeded fifth at 3-5 with Grand Rapids (3-5) sixth, Hibbing (3-5) seventh and Central (0-7) eighth.
If form prevails, the East-Bemidji winner will play at Cloquet Saturday while the Grand Rapids-Hermantown winner would face Denfeld at Public Schools Stadium.
The final will be Nov. 6 at the high seed.
Bemidji and East are no strangers to one another, though they have not met since 2001. Ironically that came in the opening round of the 2001 playoffs won by Bemidji 37-12.
Bemidji met the Duluth schools regularly for 15 years from 1984-1999 with the Jacks and Greyhounds facing each other every one of those years.
Bemidji holds a 13-5 lead in the series, winning the last five meetings since a Greyhound 26-0 playoff win in 1995. That followed a 27-7 regular-season victory by East and ended a four-year win string. Their only other win came in 1988 on an extra point 14-13.
Bemidji has topped 30 points against East nine times with a 53-0 decision in 1999 and 52-27 win a year earlier.
The Jacks should profit from their drop from Class 5A to 4A this year and shift to the east into Section 7.
While the Duluth area and Iron Range teams are all competitive, none faces the type of schedule the Jacks face in the fall against Central Lakes Conference opponents. The Jacks likely would have done far better against the Section 7-4A slate.
They numbered Brainerd and Moorhead among their victims this season and were beaten badly only by St. Cloud Tech and Sartell.
They have one of the area's top running threats in Czar Woods and top receivers in Ryan Rude,
They come into the playoffs fresh from a fine performance against Rocori Thursday night, denied a probable win by an end zone interception on the next-to-final play of the game.
Mitch Hendricks will return to the quarterback post tonight after four weeks on the sideliners with a dislocated collarbone.
Before going down in the Alexandria loss, he hit 43 of 76 pass attempts for 658 yards and four touchdowns,
Ryan Stevens, who replaced Hendricks, threw for a season-high 188 yards and two scores against Rocori. That came three weeks after a 177 yard, three-touchdown performance against Fergus Falls.
Stevens could see duty at tight end.
Rude snared five passes for 164 yards and two scores, his fourth game this year with more than 100 yards in receptions. He leads the team with seven scores and 42 points.
Evan Olson will complete the backfield at fullback and also play some at tight end when the Jacks go into a double tight end lineup. Kevin Nelson will replace him in the backfield. He has gained almost 250 yards this season as a key reserve.
With Rude as flanker, Carey Woods and Cole Bardwell will share duties as split end with Will Bruestle or Olson the tight end.
Lukas Dudley will center between Jake Gruber and Pat Froehle with Chris Dudley and Grant Richardson the tackles.
Bardwell is the second leader in reception with 11 to Rude's 29.
Froehle is replacing Chris Madson, who is ill.
Defensively, Lukas Dudley will be the nose guard between Josh Smith and big Frank Mays outside.
Cody Fear and Zach Solheim will be the outside backers and Olson and Ernie Heifort inside.
The Woods brothers are at the corners with Forrest Moe and Matt Hietala the deep two.
Hendricks has resumed full workouts but has not yet received medical clearance to return to full contact. He suffered a dislocated collar bone in the Alexandria game.
East was denied a No. 3 seed when it fell to Detroit Lakes 21-20 last week as a final play 47-yard field goal try fell 15 yards short.
It gave Denfeld the final North Country Conference title at 3-1 to 2-2 for DL and East. With Central's demise, that league will fold in 2010 for lack of a minimum of five teams.
East quarterback Zach Farmer threw touchdown passes to Tanner Murray and Jim Danielson and ran in from one yard for the third score.
That gave East a 20-13 lead. But DL rallied on a one yard run by quarterback Joe Mollberg with 34 seconds left and his two point conversion pass to Jon Gibson.
The TD was set up by a 72-yard screen pass.
A blocked punt and subsequent score allowed DL to get back into the game with 20 seconds left in the first half to trail 13-7.
BEMIDJI-DULUTH EAST SERIES
2001 37 Duluth East (x) 12
1999 53 Duluth East 0
1998 52 Duluth East 27
1997 42 Duluth East 20
1996 28 Duluth East 7
1995 0 Duluth East (x) 26
1995 7 Duluth East 27
1994 20 Duluth East 28
1993 6 Duluth East 26
1992 19 Duluth East 13
1991 20 Duluth East 18
1990 35 Duluth East 8
1989 41 Duluth East 0
1988 13 Duluth East 14
1987 14 Duluth East 6
1986 30 Duluth East 8
1985 31 Duluth East 0
1984 42 Duluth East 0
(x) Playoff game (13-5)