BEMIDJI – After four games, the Bemidji football team owned a 2-2 record and its inconsistencies on the field indicated that a .500 season was probably on the horizon.
The Lumberjacks had played well in their season opener at Moorhead but lost 34-30 when an apparent winning BHS touchdown pass in the final seconds was negated by a holding penalty.
The next week the Jacks dominated an overmatched Duluth Denfeld squad 45-14, but in its home opener a week later Bemidji struggled in the second half and barely hung on for a 14-7 win over Duluth East.
In late September at Brainerd, the Jacks dominated the Warriors in the first half and forged a 14-6 advantage at the break. But in the final 24 minutes Brainerd took complete control and eventually thumped the Lumberjacks 40-23.
Since that loss, however, the players and coaches have made the necessary adjustments. The reward for those mental, physical and philosophical changes have been six wins in the past seven games and a berth in the state Class 5A tournament.
Bemidji will open its state action 6 p.m. Saturday at St. Cloud State against Moorhead (10-0). If the Lumberjacks can down the Spuds they will advance to the state semifinals on Nov. 17 and a 7 p.m. game against either Totino-Grace or Apple Valley.
Following the 2-2 start, few football fans expected the Lumberjacks to still be playing in mid-November. Senior co-captain Dylan Dickinson, however, isn’t totally surprised.
“We lost many seniors from last year and we had many new players on the team,” he said. “It took some time for us to learn how to come together as a team but right now we are bonding.”
The Lumberjacks are peaking at the right time. As expected, they stomped Denfeld 40-14 in the Section 7-5A quarterfinals. The next week, however, BHS (which was ranked third in the section) opened some eyes when it traveled to Cambridge and blanked the section’s second seed 21-0.
And last week Bemidji completed its journey through the section playoffs by outlasting No. 1 seed Chisago Lakes 31-29.
“At the start of the season I think we might have been playing as individuals but now we are playing for each other,” Dickinson said. “When we play for each other we can shut out teams like we did against Cambridge.”
Saturday’s main defensive task will be to silence Moorhead’s all-everything back Chase Morlock.
In last week’s 35-21 Section 8-5A championship game win over Sartell, Morlock ran 21 times for 214 yards. His day’s work included TD runs of 1, 4, 3, 6 and 81 yards.
Morlock also caught five passes for 39 yards.
In the season-opening victory over Bemidji, Morlock had 215 yards and four touchdowns on 25 rushes.
“We’re playing with unity now and I feel like we’re ready to take on Morlock and shut him down,” Dickinson said. “We have the players, the skill and the coaches to do that. We just need to put everything together.
“This team has gotten to the point where we want to strive for the greatness of last year’s team,” Dickinson added. “In some ways it’s more fun to play this year. We were blowing out teams last year but this season we’ve had to work hard for what we’ve accomplished. And that hard work is making the season very fun.”