Winning, especially during the post-season, can be habit forming. So can losing.
In recent years the sports programs at Bemidji High School have developed the former habit and setting the tone are the fall sports teams.
A year ago four of Bemidji’s eight fall teams - girls cross country, swimming, football and volleyball - won section championships. That success spurred a run of Lumberjacks success that carried through the entire school year, culminating with a runner-up finish by the baseball team in the state high school Class 3A baseball tournament.
While the fall of 2011 was memorable for all Lumberjacks fans, this year’s fall programs are on par to duplicate that post-season success.
The boys cross country team is coming off Saturday’s sixth-place finish at the 16-team state Class 2A competition. Also on Saturday the volleyball team punched its state-tournament ticket at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul by blitzing Fergus Falls 25-16, 25-23, 25-17 in the Section 8-3A final.
On Friday the football team knocked off another higher seed when it capped a 4.5-hour bus ride to Lindstrom by edging Chisago Lakes 31-29 for the Section 7-5A championship.
The reward for that performance is a state quarterfinal battle with long-time rival Moorhead. The Jacks and Spuds, who squared off in the season opener (a 34-30 Spuds win in Moorhead), will stage their rematch 6 p.m. Saturday at St. Cloud State.
Another BHS squad could join the cross country, volleyball and football teams as section champions this weekend when the girls swimmers and divers battle their section peers in Warroad.
The preliminaries will be held Friday and the championship heats will be run on Saturday.
Because of its senior-laden roster a year ago, Bemidji was supposed to reach the state playoffs and was supposed to do well in the tournament.
The Lumberjacks lived up to those expectations as they gained the state championship game, eventually losing to Rocori in the title contest.
This year’s squad, however, wasn’t saddled with such lofty expectations. But what was billed as a rebuilding year by some, especially after the 2-2 start, has turned into a reloading year.
“As a coach I don’t know if I can say why we have done so well in the playoffs,” said Jacks coach Troy Hendricks. “We did make some adjustments, especially defensively, but I think it is more that the kids have rallied around each other. We have some experience on this team and the program has a developed a tradition of winning.
“And these kids are adding to that tradition.”
The 2011 Lumberjacks dominated on both sides of the ball and many of their opponents were emotionally beaten before the kickoff.
This year’s squad, however, has had to scratch and claw to reach 8-3.
Against Chisago Lakes BHS saw the Wildcats score two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the first half and forge a 23-10 lead at the break.
On the first offensive play of the second half, however, Chisago Lakes fumbled and Aaron Bofferding recovered at the Wildcats’ 24-yard line.
That play pushed momentum Bemidji’s way and powered the Jacks to the 31-29 victory.
“Going in I thought the game could be high scoring,” Hendricks said. “Chisago Lakes has a talented offense and we knew they could score points.
“We got into a funk at the end of the second quarter but when halftime came around we were able to make some adjustments.
“And when we capitalized two plays after the turnover, it was a huge momentum shift.”
On the play after the fumble recovery Tanner Boes ran for 23 yards and Brady Schmidt completed the abbreviated scoring drive on the next play with a 1-yard run.
Bemidji continued its attack in the second half and eventually pulled out the victory.
Saturday against Moorhead, the Jacks will have to pick up where they left off. Entering the section title game Hendricks and his staff knew very little about Chisago Lakes. That won’t be the case Saturday against Moorhead.
“Bemidji and Moorhead have developed a great rivalry and from that standpoint this game is always fun,” Hendricks said.
Fans wishing to attend Saturday’s contest may purchase advance tickets at the high school activities office through noon Friday.
Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students.
Tickets will also be available at the stadium.
The Lumberjacks proved that making the state tournament in 2011 was no fluke. This year BHS forged a 20-7 regular-season record and maintained that success in the Section 8-3A tournament.
The Lumberjacks opened the postseason with a 3-0 blitzing of Alexandria and then outgunned Monticello 3-2 in the semifinals.
That victory set up a rematch with Fergus Falls for the section title. As was the case a year ago, Bemidji dominated Saturday’s match, coasting to a 25-16, 25-23, 25-17 victory.
The reward is a return trip to the state and a quarterfinal match against second-seeded Blaine at 11 a.m. Thursday.
The tournament will be held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
On Friday the Jacks will battle Eden Prairie or Owatonna in the championship or consolation brackets. That match will also begin at 11 a.m.
The Class 3A championship match will be 5 p.m. Saturday. The third-place match is scheduled for 3 p.m. and the consolation final will be held at 9 a.m.
Bemidji (23-7) and Blaine (29-1) met on Sept. 21 at a tournament hosted by Apple Valley. That day the Bears defeated the Lumberjacks 25-13, 25-20.
BHS has faced five teams that will be playing this weekend.
In addition to Blaine, the Jacks have played against Owatonna which will meet Eden Prairie in the Class 3A field. Bemidji swept Owatonna 25-20, 25-16 on Oct. 5.
Among the Class 2A field, BHS owns a 25-21, 27-25, 25-16 win over Thief River Falls.
The Jacks have also split against a pair of Class A state tournament teams. Early this fall Bemidji fell 25-13, 19-25, 23-25, 27-25, 15-11 at Nevis and on Oct. 6 it defeated Southwest Christian of Chaska 25-16, 5-23.
While most of the BHS fans will be following swimming, football and volleyball, the winter season starts on Friday when the girls hockey team travels to East Grand Forks.
Jacks coach Bob Brink begins his second year on the bench. The early-season roster includes 25 skaters and four goalies although Bemidji will be shorthanded Friday because some of his players are on the volleyball team and will be in St. Paul competing at the state tournament.