Jacks face major foe in Sauk Rapids
The Bemidji Lumberjacks football team faces another major hurdle tonight when it seeks to quiet the Sauk Rapids Storm at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Should it prevail, Bemidji would repeat its upset win of last season which came one week after it snapped a 24-game losing streak by beating Little Falls. It followed with a third win over Apollo to reach 3-4 before dropping its final two starts, the last in the playoff opener.
Last year's win was Bemidji's first in the brief series between the two teams.
The Storm had taken the first three games in 2002-03-04.
Bemidji goes into the contest with one major plus to counter one major minus.
The plus is Blackduck transfer Kaleb Young who is now eligible after sitting out the first four games under the open enrollment transfer rule.
He will start at nose guard and alternate at fullback with Casey Orgon.
The 5-8, 200 pounder captured third place last winter for Bemidji at the state wrestling tournament and was a three-year starter for the Drakes before transferring last year.
Young's presence in the offensive backfield may be needed with the Jacks probably going more to a ground attack after quarterback Andrew Hengel popped his throwing shoulder in last week's game at Brainerd. He has been held to limited practice this week and probably will see little, if any action.
Junior Ryan Sullivan will likely replace him tonight. He played the final quarter at Brainerd completing 3-5 for 40 yards with a last-play interception of a desperation heave deep in Brainerd territory.
John Walberg will be the halfback with Young and Orgon splitting fullback duties.
Justin Hunt and Grant Stevens will be the wide outs with Doug Peterson at tight end.
The interior line finds Pete Goldberg and Jon Miller at the tackles, Blake Collison and Scott Nordquist the guards and Cory Weikel at center.
On defense, Young will be flanked by David Molitor and Goldberg as the front three with Cody Gregg and Brandon Bahr or Matt McClellan outside.
Peterson and Nordquist will be the inside linebackers with Bunt and Sullivan or Walberg at the corners an Kyle Nohre and Trace Jahner deep.
The Jacks are 2-2 on the year. Sauk Rapids is 3-1, losing for the first time last week 10-3 to St. Cloud Tech to drop out of the Central Lakes Conference lead.
It now trails unbeaten Sartell by one game, a half game ahead of Brainerd and Tech. It faces Sartell in two weeks in a showdown game.
Last year the Storm came to Bemidji a favorite. But the Jacks rammed home two early scores on a Hengel to Mike Wallner aerial and a Nate Brown run and carried that margin into the third period.
The Storm scored once in that quarter and once in the fourth to knot the count at 12-12. Ironically all four extra point attempts failed.
Late in the game Sauk Rapids gambled and failed on a fourth down play at its own 26. Bemidji drove to the nine where Greg Skerik booted the first field goal of his career to win.
He then capped his evening by picking off a Zach Rudolph pass at the Bemidji five on the final play of the night.
Ironically, the second Bemidji score came after Sauk Rapids gambled at its own 40 on fourth down and was stuffed.
Bemidji out rushed the Storm by 30 yards and out passed it by 87 with its best defensive effort of the season. It will need more of that tonight.
For Sauk Rapids scored 45, 35 and 28 points in its first three starts before being throttled by Tech last week.
Sauk Rapids is a rapidly expanding suburb of St. Cloud with an enrollment nearing 1,000 and a new $60 million dollar high school. It is not far from entering the 5A ranks to join Brainerd, Tech and Bemidji.
Sauk Rapids was a victim of circumstances last week against Tech.
The game was played in a steady rain which favored the larger Tigers.
The Storm lost quarterback Rudolph for the second half due to a severely bruised throwing arm.
Rudolph had drilled a second period field goal that overcame Tech's 2-0 lead.
The Tigers resorted to a new one back attack with 260 pound Adam Wheeler moved into the backfield from defensive end. He scored on a 16 yard run after Tech had gained possession at the Storm 30.
Sauk Rapids responded with a field length drive that reached the Tech 12 before stalling.
Rudolph is questionable for tonight. If he is unable to go it will match reserves Sullivan and Steve Slimmer, a 5-11, 135 pound senior, in the quarterback roles.
Tech's win, ironically, was its elusive 500th in its history an achievement that had eluded the Tigers for two weeks.
Tech joined Cambridge and Mahnomen and probably Albany and Bemidji whose total records were not certain. Bemidji has now won 496 times since 1908 and was playing ball before that year.
If Rudolph (162-sr) is healthy, he will run a backfield that finds Travis Peckscamp (190-sr), and Justin Wippler (185 sr) as running backs and Casey Kedrowski (155-sr) and Evan Warnert (150-jr) at wide outs. Justin Moehle (190-sr) will be at tight end with John Gans (200-soph) and Sam Leyk (240-sr) at tackle, Lucas Fragodt (195-jr) and Aaron Claude (160-sr) at guard and Jake Meyer (215-sr) at center.
On defense, Kris Stang (180-sr) and Aaron Haakonson (180-sr) will be at end and Justin Behrend (200-sr) and Fragodt at tackle.
The backers are Moehle, Gans and Drew Gaffke (155-jr).
Andy Heinen (150-sr) and Tyler Spiczka (155-jr) are the corners with Mitch Rau (155-sr) at strong safety and Warnert as free safety.
Dan Mace, who missed wide left here twice last year, is the place kicker. He also punts.
Last year, the Storm was a passing team, gaining 681 yards through the air and only 350 on the ground. Rudolph accounted for 649 of the passing yards and 118 on the ground.
Bill Magnuson begins his sixth year at the helm with a 23-28 record. The Storm has already exceeded last year's 2-7 finish and is hoping for more.
It is expecting a banner year with eight starters back on both sides of the ball. The lack of size up front makes it vulnerable, however, and Bemidji hopes to exploit that tonight. Magnuson has returned to the Wing-T after running a veer last year.
The Jacks, who ran for 209 yards against Little Falls two weeks ago, were stifled for only three last week at Brainerd.
Peckscamp is the defending state pole vault champion.
2005: BHS 15, Sauk Rapids 12
2004: BHS 34, Sauk Rapids 56
2003: BHS 13, Sauk Rapids 28
2002: BHS 26, Sauk Rapids 34