Football: Bemidji to host Duluth Central Saturday in section semifinal
The Bemidji Lumberjacks seek a spot in the Section 7-4A football final today when they host Duluth Central at 2 p.m. at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Bemidji reached the second round with a 20-0 win over Duluth East Tuesday at Public Schools Stadium.
Central remained alive with a shocking 20-14 upset win over top seeded Cloquet in a game played at Proctor.
That result gave Bemidji an unexpected home field for today's game.
The winner will face Duluth Denfeld or Grand Rapids next Friday. That pair meet today at PSS. Should the Rapids win, the game would be at Bemidji.
Bemidji can also reach the .500 mark with a win today, It lifted its mark to 4-5 with Tuesday's victory, playing strong defense to overcome four turnovers that night.
Central is playing on emotion. The Trojans went 0-7 in regular season play, 0-4 in the North Country Conference and were a decided underdog against Cloquet.
But the Trojans thought they were playing their final game in school history with Central slated to close its doors next June and transfer its 788 students to East or Denfeld.
There is likely to be more of that emotion today after the unexpected victory.
"They are a far better team than their record," said Coach Troy Hendricks after viewing tapes of the Trojans. "They simply found ways to lose much of the season. We will need a top effort today to win."
But the Jacks have their own reasons. The playoff win was their first since 2001, the year they made their only trip to the state meet under the present format to fall to Wayzata and Marion Barber.
The drop to Class 4A and the switch to Section 7 has worked in Bemidji's favor and the Jacks seem capable of making a run for the title.
Denfeld finished 5-3 and Grand Rapids 2-6 this fall, Denfeld winning their head to head meeting 35-21 at Duluth.
"We have had a good week of practice," said Hendricks "We are back at full strength and in good health and expect to play a great game."
Chris Madson, who missed the East win due to illness, has returned and will team at offensive guard with Jake Gruber flanking center Lukas Dudley, Chris Dudley and Grant 'Big Country' Richardson will be the tackles with Will Bruestle the tight end and Cole Bardwell and Carey Woods sharing split end duties.
Ryan Rude will open at flanker with Mitch Hendricks running the veer attack, Evan Olson at full and Czar Woods the tailback.
On defense, Bemidji will go with Josh Smith and Frank Mays flanking Lukas Dudley up front.
Cod Feat and Zach Solheim are the outside backers with Olson and Ernie Heifort inside. The Woods man the corners and Matt Hietala and Forrest Moe are the deep two.
Central received a pair of 100 yard rushing nights against Cloquet with Joey Janchar carrying 23 times for 115 yards and Luke Johanneson 22 for 113 Each scored once as did Nate Beaulieu on an 81 yard run.
Central showed a run oriented attack which should also work to Bemidji's favor with the Jacks run defense outstanding all season.
Central also missed two extra point conversion kicks which might prove a factor if the game is close.
Bemidji can counter with either Jon Henry or Mike Rees who have been extremely accurate this season.
Bemidji and Central have met eight times in history between 1973 and 1990 with Bemidji winning all eight. Only two were close.