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Experienced Lumberjacks face hungry Warriors

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sports Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Heading to Brainerd for a football game is always a challenge. And facing the Warriors on their home turf after they suffered an upset loss the previous week will make the challenge even more difficult.

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"I think Brainerd will be hungry," said Bemidji head coach Troy Hendricks who will lead the Lumberjacks into Brainerd 7 p.m. today. "Brainerd expects to win at home and, after last week's loss at Sartell (8-3) Brainerd will be ready to play its best game.

"But the outcome will still come down to execution. The team that executes better will come out on top."

So far this fall the Lumberjacks have been executing at near peak efficiency and the result has been lop-sided victories at Moorhead and Fergus Falls plus last week's 58-14 home win over St. Cloud Apollo.

Brainerd opened with a 28-20 win over Rocori and a 31-7 pasting of Willmar. Last week, however, the Warriors were stunned 8-3 at Sartell.

"Brainerd's defense has been on its game this year," Hendricks said. "The No. 1 unit plays at a high level and most of the points Brainerd has given up has been against its second unit.

"Offensively the quarterback (Mitch McLain) is a dual threat," Hendricks continued. "He can run inside or outside and also can throw the ball and block. With him controlling the ball Brainerd has an extra guy it can utilize in the trenches."

In each of the first three games the Jacks defense has yielded one long scoring play. Other than those three plays, however, the defense has dominated the action.

"Going into the season we knew we'd be tough but it seems like our defense needs to have the other team score before we jell," Hendricks said. "At practice this week the defense looks mad. And that is a good sign."

The key to the defense is a swarming style that makes life miserable for anyone carrying the ball. BHS is averaging 85 tackles in three games, 47 of them assisted stops. James Bofferding has set the pace with 17 solo tackles and 17 assists. Also with at least 20 tackles are Kole Spencer (5-18-23), Brandon Larson (10-16-26), Brady Schmidt (8-12-20), Andrew Street (7-13-20) and Richard Seado (5-15-20).

Among Schmidt's tackles are four sacks while Case Gruber has 3.5 sacks. Cody Rutledge has intercepted three passes and last week Dylan Dickinson blocked two punts.

Bemidji's offense has been almost unstoppable and leading the way are quarterback Mitchell Hendricks and receiver/running back Carey Woods. Hendricks has completed 38 of his 52 aerials for 777 yards and eight touchdowns. Woods has been on the receiving end of 21 passes, good for 546 yards and seven touchdowns.

Zach DeClusin has the other TD grab.

"It's nice to be jelling from a passing standpoint," the coach said. "And I also am pleased with our kicking game, especially considering that our starting kicker Jon Henry was lost before the season (torn ACL)."

With Henry out of the lineup the Jacks are kicking by committee. Andrew Street handles the kickoffs, Mitchell Hendricks the field goals and PAT boots and Mitch Brown the punts. Hendricks has converted 12 of his 16 PAT kicks.

"After Jon went down I never thought we'd be doing this well," the coach said. "Our kicking game has been a pleasant surprise."

The Lumberjacks, ranked fifth in the latest AP Class 4A poll, can make a statement today with a win at Brainerd.

"If we have an advantage it could be that we may have a little more experience than Brainerd does," Hendricks said. "We have a couple of three-year starters and several two-year starters. These players know what it is like to play in a big game.

"With that experience on the team we're going to Brainerd expecting to win instead of hoping to win, and that is a big difference," the coach continued. "We're expecting to win, not because we don't respect Brainerd and its program, but because we are experienced and playing well. A game against Brainerd is always a measuring stick to find out who you are. It's exciting. We love being 3-0 and we love the challenge of playing a program as strong as Brainerd's."

Y pmiller@bemidjipioneer.com

Heading to Brainerd for a football game is always a challenge. And facing the Warriors on their home turf after they suffered an upset loss the previous week will make the challenge even more difficult.

"I think Brainerd will be hungry," said Bemidji head coach Troy Hendricks who will lead the Lumberjacks into Brainerd 7 p.m. today. "Brainerd expects to win at home and, after last week's loss at Sartell (8-3) Brainerd will be ready to play its best game.

"But the outcome will still come down to execution. The team that executes better will come out on top."

So far this fall the Lumberjacks have been executing at near peak efficiency and the result has been lop-sided victories at Moorhead and Fergus Falls plus last week's 58-14 home win over St. Cloud Apollo.

Brainerd opened with a 28-20 win over Rocori and a 31-7 pasting of Willmar. Last week, however, the Warriors were stunned 8-3 at Sartell.

"Brainerd's defense has been on its game this year," Hendricks said. "The No. 1 unit plays at a high level and most of the points Brainerd has given up has been against its second unit.

"Offensively the quarterback (Mitch McLain) is a dual threat," Hendricks continued. "He can run inside or outside and also can throw the ball and block. With him controlling the ball Brainerd has an extra guy it can utilize in the trenches."

In each of the first three games the Jacks defense has yielded one long scoring play. Other than those three plays, however, the defense has dominated the action.

"Going into the season we knew we'd be tough but it seems like our defense needs to have the other team score before we jell," Hendricks said. "At practice this week the defense looks mad. And that is a good sign."

The key to the defense is a swarming style that makes life miserable for anyone carrying the ball. BHS is averaging 85 tackles in three games, 47 of them assisted stops. James Bofferding has set the pace with 17 solo tackles and 17 assists. Also with at least 20 tackles are Kole Spencer (5-18-23), Brandon Larson (10-16-26), Brady Schmidt (8-12-20), Andrew Street (7-13-20) and Richard Seado (5-15-20).

Among Schmidt's tackles are four sacks while Case Gruber has 3.5 sacks. Cody Rutledge has intercepted three passes and last week Dylan Dickinson blocked two punts.

Bemidji's offense has been almost unstoppable and leading the way are quarterback Mitchell Hendricks and receiver/running back Carey Woods. Hendricks has completed 38 of his 52 aerials for 777 yards and eight touchdowns. Woods has been on the receiving end of 21 passes, good for 546 yards and seven touchdowns.

Zach DeClusin has the other TD grab.

"It's nice to be jelling from a passing standpoint," the coach said. "And I also am pleased with our kicking game, especially considering that our starting kicker Jon Henry was lost before the season (torn ACL)."

With Henry out of the lineup the Jacks are kicking by committee. Andrew Street handles the kickoffs, Mitchell Hendricks the field goals and PAT boots and Mitch Brown the punts. Hendricks has converted 12 of his 16 PAT kicks.

"After Jon went down I never thought we'd be doing this well," the coach said. "Our kicking game has been a pleasant surprise."

The Lumberjacks, ranked fifth in the latest AP Class 4A poll, can make a statement today with a win at Brainerd.

"If we have an advantage it could be that we may have a little more experience than Brainerd does," Hendricks said. "We have a couple of three-year starters and several two-year starters. These players know what it is like to play in a big game.

"With that experience on the team we're going to Brainerd expecting to win instead of hoping to win, and that is a big difference," the coach continued. "We're expecting to win, not because we don't respect Brainerd and its program, but because we are experienced and playing well. A game against Brainerd is always a measuring stick to find out who you are. It's exciting. We love being 3-0 and we love the challenge of playing a program as strong as Brainerd's."

pmiller@bemidjipioneer.com

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Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

(218) 333-9200
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