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FOOTBALL: Bemidji looks to play ‘complete game’ Friday at Sartell

BEMIDJI — Troy Hendricks and his Bemidji High School football coaching staff constantly preach improving with each day’s practice and each week’s game.

The ultimate goal is to play a complete game and, despite winning its first three starts, BHS is still looking to achieve that goal.

“Playing a complete game is something you strive for as coaches and as players,” Hendricks said. “But we haven’t done that yet.”

The next opportunity for the Lumberjacks to accomplish that goal comes tonight when they head to Sartell. Bemidji will take a 3-0 record into the game while Sartell is 1-2. Last week the Sabres were thumped 46-7 by Willmar while the Jacks rallied to down Fergus Falls 52-29.

In that contest the Lumberjacks played a complete game in the second half. They did not perform as well in the first half, however.

Bemidji’s defense allowed a handful of long gainers during the first two quarters and Fergus Falls turned those Jacks mistakes into a 21-14 halftime lead. In the second stanza, however, Bemidji played flawless football and controlled the action.

“Offensively we moved the ball well the entire game but we shot ourselves in the foot in the red zone during the first half,” Hendricks said of last week’s offense. “And defensively we gave up the big play.”

An attitude adjustment during the intermission was all Bemidji needed to reverse its fortunes. And in the second half the Lumberjacks were unstoppable.

“We had a conversation at half,” Hendricks said. “We talked about focusing and playing with a little bit of urgency.

“And the kids responded. We played an almost error free third quarter.”

BHS outscored the Otters 28-0 in the period and turned what had been a close game into an easy victory.

“We still have lots to work on but we have displayed signs of being effective in all three phases of the game,” Hendricks said. “I think the kids know what they are capable of doing and now we have to play to our capabilities for an entire game.”

Bemidji enters tonight’s contest tied with Brainerd for first place in the Central Lakes North standings. Both teams sport 3-0 records and own a one-game lead over Moorhead (2-1). Fergus Falls is 1-2 while Alexandria and Grand Rapids are 0-3.

In the Central Lakes South Division, St. Cloud Apollo and St. Cloud Tech are 3-0, Willmar is 2-1, Sartell owns a 1-2 record and Rocori and Sauk Rapids both are 0-3.

Sartell’s victory was at the expense of Alexandria (27-19) and the losses have been to St. Cloud Tech (14-0) and Willmar. Hendricks has been impressed with the Sabres and believes that Bemidji must utilize its speed if it hopes to improve to 4-0.

“Sartell has played tough competition and they are always a physical team,” the coach said. “We need to come into this game with a plan of playing fast and making plays on the edge. Defensively, we will need to do a better job of tackling and with our pass defense.

“But we are capable of doing those things. It’s just a matter of who will make the big plays for us.”

The Lumberjacks enter tonight’s game with a healthy roster. The only player who is sidelined in Ben Christopher who continues to recover from a knee injury sustained earlier this fall.

“Right now, the only team stopping us is ourselves,” Hendricks said. “But if we play with a little more consistency and focus we should be okay.

“I am pleased we are 3-0 but we really don’t focus on records,” the coach continued. “We are making progress week in and week out and have shown the ability to play pretty good football. That’s the positive. And now our job is to get better each week.”

Notes: Tonight’s game is the third of four road tests to start the season. The Lumberjacks will close the regular season with three of the final four games at home. The first will be next week when they host Rocori in the annual Homecoming game . . .

The Lumberjacks plan to salute the players from the 2000 section championship team during this year’s Homecoming festivities. Anyone who was on that team is invited to contact the BHS activities office (444-1600, ext. 3315) for details.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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