Senior Bemidji football co-captain Forrest Moe has believed in this year's from the opening day of practice and he is not surprised that the Lumberjacks have advanced to the state Class 4A quarterfinals.
"It isn't necessarily that we thought we would gain state, it was more a matter of finding a way to win football games," Moe said. "Because we kept finding ways to win we are still playing."
BHS has found a way to win nine games and will take a 9-1 record into today's 7 p.m. quarterfinal contest at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth against Rogers. The only blemish on Bemidji's season, a 33-28 loss to Brainerd, came against a 10-0 team which has advanced to the Class 5A state tournament.
The Lumberjacks finished the regular season ranked eighth in the state football poll while Rogers, which is 10-0, was third. The Royals play a very physical brand of football and BHS coach Troy Hendricks is expecting Rogers to try and pound the ball down the Lumberjacks' throats.
Bemidji, however, boasts a varied offense and runningback Kevin Nelson expects the Jacks to use all of its weapons tonight.
"The game plan is to mix it up with the pass and the run," Nelson said. "We have everything in place and we just need to be smart and keep the turnovers to a minimum."
BHS can attack a defense with a power running game, an option running game and a potent passing game and utilizing all of those weapons keeps everyone involved and keeps the defense guessing.
"Our offense is fun to run," Nelson said. "During my freshman year we were a smash-mouth offense but this year, with all of the different options and movements, the offense seems more professional and is certainly more fun to play."
Last week in the 33-18 win the offense sputtered during the first half and the defense kept the Lumberjacks in contention. At intermission BHS led 7-6 but the offense caught fire in the second half and the one-two punch on both sides of the ball turned what had been a close game into a laugher.
"We have found different ways to win all season," Moe, who anchors the defense from his safety position, said. "The defense definitely had to hold things together in the first half against Grand Rapids but we knew the offense would get going."
Which aspect of the game will take charge tonight remains to be seen.
"Rogers is just another football team and we have to find a way to beat them," Moe said. "The main thing we will have to do is play physical football. Rogers is a good football team but we're going to Duluth to win this game. I don't think we need any luck to come home a winner. We have what it takes to win this game and all we have to do is play football."
"I expect a great game," Nelson said. "There are two good football teams playing in the state tournament. It will be a battle for both of us but it will be fun."
Today's other Class 4A lower-bracket state matchup sees Mahtomedi (9-2) battling Mankato West (10-0) at Chanhassen.
In the upper bracket, St. Thomas Academy (10-0) tangles with Northfield (8-2) in Lakeville and Sauk Rapids (7-4) faces defending state champion Totino-Grace (9-1) at St. Cloud State.
Today's upper-bracket winners will square off Nov. 19 while the lower-bracket survivors meet Nov. 20. The semifinals and the Nov. 27 championship game will be played at the Metrodome.