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Bemidji State football team looks to keep pace with top of NSIC at U-Mary

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sports Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

The No. 20 Bemidji State football team will try to extend its winning streak to four games against NSIC North Division rival U-Mary Saturday in Bismarck at 2:30 p.m.

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More than the winning streak, the Beavers need a win to stay in contention for a national tournament berth and keep pace atop the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference standings.

"I've been a big cliché coach and say let's just take it one game at a time," Bemidji State head coach Jeff Tesch said. "But we did finally talk about it this week with two road games coming up about how important it is to get wins with the light at the end of the tunnel for possible postseason play."

The Beavers play at Northern State next week, return home to face No. 14 St. Cloud State and end the regular season at Minnesota-Crookston on Nov. 12.

The No. 20 ranking for the Beavers is the highest in program history and the 6-1 (5-1 NSIC) record at this point in the season is the best since 2000.

"That feels good. It's just one of those things that's a good accomplishment but at this point in the season we're just trying to concentrate on winning each week and making the playoffs at this point," senior wide receiver Justin Lee said.

The Beavers were picked to finish eighth in the NSIC preseason coaches poll but head into the last month tied for first place with St. Cloud State, Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota State Mankato and Wayne State.

"It's not surprising to a lot of us," Lee said. "The guys who stayed here this summer put in a lot of hard work and these seniors have been together for a long time. There's a lot of friendships on the team.

"There's a lot of camaraderie and unity this year more than any year I've been here with things unrelated to football."

U-Mary (3-4, 2-4 NSIC) lost to UMD 41-28 at home last week and is looking to avoid a three-game losing streak. The Marauders have wins against Chadron State, Augustana and Minnesota-Crookston this season.

The Beavers and Marauders have played every year since 2006. BSU lost the first two meetings and have won the last three including last year's 23-22 victory in Bemidji on Jesse Sundby's field goal in the final seconds.

"Some teams just match up hard against each other," Tesch said. "This is a team that, because of the styles we play, we know how to stop each other and that makes things tough. We're going to have to play well."

The Beavers shook off a slow start last Saturday to defeat MSU, Moorhead 35-10 at Chet Anderson Stadium. Quarterback Lance Rongstad passed for a career-best 236 yards and three touchdowns.

"It's good to know when we need to pass the ball we can do it efficiently," Lee said. "It felt good for us as receivers to get out and make some big plays. Overall it's a confidence booster for us and our whole offense. It's just going to make us stronger moving forward."

Saturday is U-Mary's homecoming, so the Beavers will be in for a test with the pressure of chasing a national playoff berth on their backs. BSU has never reached the national tournament.

"Pressure is there and obviously is something that hangs over your head during the week," Lee said. "But it doesn't matter during the game. The only thing that matters is the game itself. There is pressure this week because we know Mary is a good football team and we know we have to play well to beat them."

Y estromgren@bemidjipioneer.com

The No. 20 Bemidji State football team will try to extend its winning streak to four games against NSIC North Division rival U-Mary Saturday in Bismarck at 2:30 p.m.

More than the winning streak, the Beavers need a win to stay in contention for a national tournament berth and keep pace atop the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference standings.

"I've been a big cliché coach and say let's just take it one game at a time," Bemidji State head coach Jeff Tesch said. "But we did finally talk about it this week with two road games coming up about how important it is to get wins with the light at the end of the tunnel for possible postseason play."

The Beavers play at Northern State next week, return home to face No. 14 St. Cloud State and end the regular season at Minnesota-Crookston on Nov. 12.

The No. 20 ranking for the Beavers is the highest in program history and the 6-1 (5-1 NSIC) record at this point in the season is the best since 2000.

"That feels good. It's just one of those things that's a good accomplishment but at this point in the season we're just trying to concentrate on winning each week and making the playoffs at this point," senior wide receiver Justin Lee said.

The Beavers were picked to finish eighth in the NSIC preseason coaches poll but head into the last month tied for first place with St. Cloud State, Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota State Mankato and Wayne State.

"It's not surprising to a lot of us," Lee said. "The guys who stayed here this summer put in a lot of hard work and these seniors have been together for a long time. There's a lot of friendships on the team.

"There's a lot of camaraderie and unity this year more than any year I've been here with things unrelated to football."

U-Mary (3-4, 2-4 NSIC) lost to UMD 41-28 at home last week and is looking to avoid a three-game losing streak. The Marauders have wins against Chadron State, Augustana and Minnesota-Crookston this season.

The Beavers and Marauders have played every year since 2006. BSU lost the first two meetings and have won the last three including last year's 23-22 victory in Bemidji on Jesse Sundby's field goal in the final seconds.

"Some teams just match up hard against each other," Tesch said. "This is a team that, because of the styles we play, we know how to stop each other and that makes things tough. We're going to have to play well."

The Beavers shook off a slow start last Saturday to defeat MSU, Moorhead 35-10 at Chet Anderson Stadium. Quarterback Lance Rongstad passed for a career-best 236 yards and three touchdowns.

"It's good to know when we need to pass the ball we can do it efficiently," Lee said. "It felt good for us as receivers to get out and make some big plays. Overall it's a confidence booster for us and our whole offense. It's just going to make us stronger moving forward."

Saturday is U-Mary's homecoming, so the Beavers will be in for a test with the pressure of chasing a national playoff berth on their backs. BSU has never reached the national tournament.

"Pressure is there and obviously is something that hangs over your head during the week," Lee said. "But it doesn't matter during the game. The only thing that matters is the game itself. There is pressure this week because we know Mary is a good football team and we know we have to play well to beat them."

estromgren@bemidjipioneer.com

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