Jacks playoff history dates to 1919
Playoffs are nothing new for the Bemidji High football team though the Jacks have not enjoyed much success in the current state meet since that system began in 1972.
When the two class system was inaugurated in 1984, moving the Jacks into Section 7AA, they have reached the final eight only twice, bowing in the opening round in 2000 and last fall.
They have also struggled in section meets both in 7AA, 8-4A and 8-5A before dropping back to 7-4A last season.
Facing the Duluth area teams once again, they swept three straight section games and repeated with two victories in as many starts this year.
While few, if any, still remember, the Jacks did reach the state "title game" in 1919 before the advent of the State High School League, battling Montevideo to a scoreless tie at Montevideo in a contest that matched the state's selected northern and southern champions. The Jacks had finished 5-0 that fall.
A year later they took a playoff victory over Faribault 20-0.
But that was far before the playoffs became an official event.,
They came again after a major push by the state's football coaches association, culminating in 1972 when the state's top eight teams in each division were selected by a point system.
Since 1969 one post season playoff game had been permitted between league champions with Bemidji's Northwest Conference and Heart O' Lakes hooking up for a game following the 1971 season. Weather wiped out that game but Bemidji and Pelican Rapids met in 1972 with Pelican winning 12-8 on its snow covered home field.
In 1974, the Northwest switched alliances and squared off with the West Central Conference with Bemidji losing a tough 14-8 decision to Alexandria at BSU.
The next fall Bemidji took an unbeaten team to Montevideo where it was upset by a smaller but quicker Montevideo team, 31-19.
By 1979, the MSHSL abandoned the controversial point system in favor of matching league champions.
Bemidji qualified for the state play downs for the first time and marched into the semifinals beating Detroit Lakes 29-7 and Silver Bay 21-13 with a dramatic final period comeback.
It trailed 13-7 late in that game before tying the score on a 41-yard John Noga to Craig Erhart pass but had the conversion kick blocked.
Dave Evenson's interception gave Bemidji a last chance to win but Silver Bay returned the favor by intercepting a Noga aerial.
With 90 seconds to go, Silver Bay ran three plays and punted.
Dale Leonard gathered in the ball on the run and raced 33 yards for the winning score.
It was the Jacks' 1oth win, a mark that still stands as a single-season record,
The bubble burst the following week as a six inch snowfall covered the BSU gridiron taking away the Jacks vaunted Erhart-Leonard running game.
Fridley Grace (now Totino), whose strength was a power inside game, rolled to a 30--6 decision and went on to beat Apple Valley 17-14 in the following week's title game.
Leonard's 90 yard kickoff return was the only Bemidji score that night.
Bemidji won its opening games in 1984-85-86 before bowing to Moorhead on each occasion.
It had been shifted into Section 7AA in 84 along with Grand Rapids, Moorhead, Hibbing and the three Duluth schools.
It lost its opener the next three falls before beating Moorhead 41-21 in 1990 before bowing to Cambridge in 1889.
But it lost at Cambridge in the second round 13-7 as a Mark Varriano aerial was dropped in the open behind the Bluejackets defense that could have tied or won the game.
It was not until 1998 that the Jacks won another section test, blasting Apollo 62-29 before losing to Brainerd 35-33 on a dropped end zone pass in the final seconds.
By this time the Jacks were in 8-5A.
They finally gained the final eight again in 2000 under Troy Hendricks, beating Alexandria, St Cloud Tech and Brainerd before being drilled by Wayzata 41-14 in the state quarterfinals, a team led by Marion Barber, the future Gopher and NFL star.
Alexandria stopped the Jacks 39-6 in the 2001 section final, the last time they won a playoff game until last season.
That was their first in 7-4A and saw them drill East 20-0, Central 40-0 and Denfeld 40-14 before falling to Sartell 27-6 in the quarterfinals.
Wins over Hermantown and Grand Rapids gained the final eight this fall.