The Bemidji Lumberjacks football team, which shocked Central Lakes pre-season favorite Brainerd last Friday, tries to make it two straight over CLC powers when it entertains St. Cloud Tech tonight.
Tech and Brainerd were rated the top two teams in the conference in pre-season rankings. But the Tigers lost a battle of field goals to Brainerd 10-9 in their opener, then were demolished by Sartell 42-14 last week to fall into the basement.
However, Bemidji has not beaten the Tigers since 2001 when it competed a three game run. Tech has won the last nine starts to lead the series 15-4.
It dates back to 1939 when the two teams were fellow members of the Central Six Conference. Attempts to become league mates again have been repulsed by the CLC for two decades.
Ironically, Brainerd had taken the past nine meetings with Bemidji when it went down 15-13 last week. The Jacks are hoping to repeat that win tonight.
Through the years, they have played the Tigers fairly close, even in the its weakest years. Only one of the last nine games was a blowout, a tournament 57-6 thrashing in 2004. Last year Tech widened a close game late to win 38-20.
Sartell dominated the line last week to take a 21-0 lead and go on from there. Thee third quarter scores upped the margin to 41-7,
Tech also lost three more starters during the contest, raising their number to 12 plus one key reserve since the start of practice.
Six starters and two reserves went down in the Brainerd opener.
The Tech losses should aid Bemidji which dominated the front line play against Brainerd, out gaining the Warriors 177-76 on the ground and holding the Warriors to 216 yards overall. much of that total in the final period.
But the defense also smothered the tying two point conversion try in the final quarter to preserve the lead.
Sophomore Mitch Hendricks hit 11-18 passes for 136 yards and no interceptions after having four picked off at Willmar.
Ryan Rude had six grads and now shows 10 for 191 yards and two scores.
Evan Olson and Czar Woods show 159 and 105 yards rushing in two games with a TD apiece.
Bemidji played four solid periods Friday after yielding an early score on a punt return and coughing up the ball in its own territory on a fumble.
But the defense held on that mistake and Bemidji controlled the game the rest of the way.
It took away Brainerd's traditionally strong ground game and showed an improved pass defense both in the line and secondary.
The Tigers will open with Alex Hanks (200-sr) running the attack with Ryan Heaton (175-jr) at running back, Nick Frost (150-sr) as the slot back and Jon Walker (175-sr) and Austin Ciccati (145-jr) as the wideouts.
Tyler Hanratty (220-sr) will be the tight end with Garrett Berg (280-sr) and Paul Kaczor (235-soph) at the tackles, Kaelen Nelson (230-jr) and Ross Windfeldt (310-jr) at the guards and Tony Roberts (200-sr) at center.
Roberts and Berg are three year starters and the only two back from last year.
On defense, Nate Gronberg (250-jr)_ will be on the nose with Berg and Roberts the ends.
Mike Laudenbach (185-jr) and Nate Kor (190-soph_) are the outside backers with Jasper Benner (175-sr_) and James Warzecha (195-sr) inside.
The corners are Tyler Wieber (165-sr) and Jobe Peterson (140-jr) with Kellan Euerle (180-sr) and Chris Hutton (155-sr) deep .
Warzecha, Benner and Euerle started last year.
Bemidji will be missing outside linebacker Collin Hilmer and offensive guard Chris Madson who were injured last Friday with Madson a strong possibility to be available.
Pat Froehle (240-jr) will replace Madson. Harley Kroening (160-jr) or Kyle Huewe (160-jr) will fill Hilmer's post.
Hendricks will be back at the throttle with Olson and Woods the running backs and Carey Woods and Cole Burwell sharing the split end.
Will Bruestle or Ryan Stevens will be at tight end with Zach Solheim and Chris Dudley at tackle. Froehle and Jake Gruber at guard and Lukas Dudley at center.
On defense, Corey Huber will be on the nose with Logan Knutson and Frank Mays outside. Cody Fear and Kroening or Huewe will be outside backers with Ernie Heifort and Olson inside.
Forest Moe and Matt Hietala will be at safety with the Woods brothers at the corners.