Jacks hit the road to face St. Cloud Tech
The difference between a win and a loss in high school football often can be traced to one or two plays.
Bemidji, for the most part, has made those plays while St. Cloud Tech has fallen short.
That is why the Lumberjacks enter today's 7 p.m. game at Tech with a 5-1 record while the Tigers are 1-5.
"Tech, traditionally, is a football powerhouse but this fall it is having a lean year," said BHS coach Troy Hendricks. "Instead of finding ways to win football games Tech is finding ways to lose."
The Tigers opened the year with a 28-27 double-overtime loss to Sartell. Two weeks later they fell 20-17 to Sauk Rapids and last week Tech dropped a 21-14 decision to Moorhead.
Tech has been blown out two times, losing 24-0 to Alexandria and 33-14 to Brainerd. The Tigers, however, do own a 14-3 win over Little Falls.
While the Tigers have struggled when the game was on the line the Lumberjacks have excelled. Of their six games, four have gone down to the final play and the Jacks are 3-1 in those contests. The most recent nail-biter was last Friday when BHS hosted Sauk Rapids and squeaked out a 20-16 victory.
Bemidji scored the eventual winning touchdown with 5:16 to play but the win wasn't secured until Forrest Moe made a diving interception inside the 5-yard-line on the game's final play.
"The kids have done a nice job this season," Hendricks said. "Last week and for most of the year we have found a way to score a few more points than our opponents. I don't think we played our best football against Sauk Rapids but when we needed to make a play we did.
"I'm proud of the kids being 5-1 considering all of the adversity and the obstacles they have had to overcome this year," the coach continued. "We still need to continue to get better but each week there seems to be another injury or two and we're not as healthy as we'd like to be."
The latest casualty is junior runningback Kevin Devescovi who suffered a bruised shoulder in the win over Sauk Rapids. Devescovi has not practiced this week and is doubtful for Friday's contest.
Fellow runningback Zach Declusin, who sprained his ankle a few weeks ago, also has missed this week's practices and probably won't play today.
Ryan Rude continues to show progress in his recovery from a back ailment sustained during the off-season but he hasn't received permission from the doctors to return to the field. The hope is that Rude will be available for the playoffs.
The Lumberjacks are expected, however, to have the services of linebacker Ernie Heifort who missed last week's action because of two broken bones in his hand.
Heifort has been fitted with a padded cast and, as long as he can handle the pain, he will be on the field.
"I'll be back on Friday," Heifort stated.
Today's game plan is simple: have all phases play consistent football for four quarters.
"Parts of our game have done that but we are yet to have every component play four quarters of solid football," Hendricks said. "I would like to see that happen."
Defensively the Lumberjacks will concentrate on stopping the run because Tech does not like to put the ball into the air.
"Tech appears to be a one-dimensional team - they want to run the football," the coach said. "We need to master the physicality of the game. Tech doesn't want to be forced into third-and-long situations and that is what we will try to create.
"Offensively we will try to stretch our attack because Tech is very solid up front," Hendricks continued. "As far as special teams, we need to continue to work on them."
Bemidji missed an extra point and a field goal try last week, Although those squandered points did not prove to be vital against Sartell, when the Lumberjacks reach the postseason every point is to be cherished.
After tonight BHS will have one more regular season game, Wednesday at Sartell. If the Lumberjacks win tonight the Sartell outcome will have no bearing on postseason position.
Bemidji enters tonight's action with 21 section points while Grand Rapids has 16, Duluth Central 13, Cloquet 11, Hermantown 10 and Hibbing 0. If Grand Rapids wins its final two games the Thunderhawks would collect another five section points which would put them into a tie with Bemidji in the race for the first seed.
Should the Jacks also win tonight, however, they would have more points than Grand Rapids could match and, consequently, the Section 7-4A top seed would be theirs.
The reward would be a first-round bye and a 10-day break entering the second-round game in Bemidji.
"We want to eliminate any chance of Grand Rapids catching us and to do that we need to win tonight," Hendricks said. "We know what's at stake. We have been able to find a way to win all year and we want to do that again tonight."
Notes: Former Lumberjack Evan Olson has been named Bemidji State University's Defensive Scout Player of the Week on three occasions this season.
In Week 3 Olson won the award for his contributions in the preparation for the Southwest State game. Olson also won the award in Week 4 (preparations for UMD) and Week 5 (preparations for Upper Iowa).