For the first time since mid-August Bemidji High School head football coach Troy Hendricks, his assistant coaches and the players could spend a Sunday afternoon away from football.
Hendricks was not going to waste the opportunity. He joined his sons and some friends in the woods, taking advantage of a perfect fall day to look for a deer sneaking among the trees.
On Monday it was back to work but instead of formulating football game schemes Hendricks could concentrate on his activities director duties.
The change in routine is the result of Saturday night’s 23-0 loss to Totino-Grace in the state Class 5A semifinals at the Metrodome.
The game probably went as most experts predicted. Totino-Grace is, arguably, the best high school team in Minnesota regardless of school size or class, and BHS was considered a distinct underdog.
Hendricks knew that coming into the game. A victory would be treasured and would vault BHS into the state championship game for the second consecutive season. But, instead of the outcome, the coach was more concerned about his team’s approach to the contest.
At this stage of a season some teams are content with what already has been accomplished. Those teams often just go through the motions, especially if they are decided underdogs.
The Lumberjacks, however, did not take that “already satisfied” approach. And, after the players accepted the fourth-place trophy, Hendricks’ pride was evident.
“After the game the Metrodome officials, many of them former coaches and activities directors, came up to me to tell me that they were impressed with how hard our boys played,” Hendricks said. “They told me that our players gave it everything they had.”
Hendricks was happy to see that effort and pleased that everyone else at the Metrodome watched a Bemidji team that continued to battle until the final whistle.
But he wasn’t surprised with what he saw.
“The expectation is that if you don’t lay it on the line you are not a true Lumberjack player,” Hendricks said. “And Saturday night, by-in-large, we laid it on the line. The bulk of the kids were exhausted on the battlefield at the end of that game.
“We knew we were an underdog,” the coach continued. “During our week of preparation we didn’t see any weakness in Totino-Grace’s personnel so we tried to attack their schemes instead. But they had the talent to overcome any schemes that we tried.”
Offensively the Eagles took advantage of enough opportunities to score 23 points. Defensively they controlled the action and gave Bemidji only one legitimate scoring series.
That drive ended when the Jacks were stopped on downs at the 2-yard line with 3:38 to play.
“We had to play a perfect football game to have a chance against Totino-Grace,” Hendricks said. “Last year we felt better as a team at this point in the season because we had just beaten Mankato West, the number one team in the state, in the semifinals. This year I feel different. But it’s a very good feeling because we gave it our all against arguably the best team in the state.”
Last year’s team went one game further into the playoffs but this year’s squad may have accomplished more because nothing came easily and not as much was expected.
“It was a great season,” the coach continued. “I am excited for the future and am so impressed with this bunch of kids and with what they accomplished. They had a goal of getting back to the Metrodome and they stayed on track.
“How many times can you say that a team set a lofty goal and accomplished that goal?” Hendricks continued. “This grouped worked hard to find their identity and found a way to have a great season. This is a very special bunch of players. They came back from the Metrodome with hardware and for me, this is a year I will never forget.”
Swimmers finish 15th
Bemidji’s swimming and diving team also had a successful weekend in Minneapolis as the Jacks placed 15th in the Class A meet and Steph Frey returned with a pair of second-place medals.
Frey was the runner-up in the 200 individual medley and the 100 free.
Also placing at state were Lexie Hendricks who was ninth in the 500 free and the 400 free relay squad of Danielle Hoven, Frey, Maris Jahner and Erin Arndt which finished 10th.
“Ending 15th at state is not a bad finish,” said BHS coach Woody Leindecker. “And, individually, Bemidji has never had anyone finish as high as second before.
“Doing so well at the state meet was a great way to end the year.”
Winter seasons begin
With fall officially over at BHS, the attention now can turn to the winter sports programs. Already competing is the girls hockey team which has three ties in its first three games.
The latest deadlock came Friday night when the Jacks skated to a 2-2 draw with South St. Paul.
Bemidji will hope to collect that first victory today when it entertains Roseau at 7:30 p.m. at the Sanford Center.
The girls hockey team also will be in action over the weekend in St. Cloud. On Friday the Lumberjacks take on St. Cloud Cathedral and Saturday afternoon they will tangle with Sauk Rapids-Sartell.
The boys hockey team has participated in a few scrimmages and will officially begin its year Nov. 27 at home against Grand Rapids.
The girls basketball team will open Nov. 29 at Pequot Lakes while the boys begin their schedule at home Dec. 7 with the Woods and Lakes tournament. Joining the Jacks will be Grand Rapids, East Grand Forks and St. Cloud Cathedral.
The wrestlers will be home on Nov. 29 against Deer River for their initial action. The gymnasts will also open at home when they entertain Park Rapids on Dec. 7.
The next day the skiers are scheduled to participate in the Grand Rapids Invitational at Mount Itasca and the boys swimmers will begin their campaign at St. Cloud Apollo.