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Bemidji St. football opens season Thursday with focus on special teams

Rob Wills and the Bemidji State football team host Minot State at 7 p.m. in the 2009 season opener at Chet Anderson Stadium. Bemidji State won the 'Beaver Bash' last season 27-24. Pioneer File Photo/Eric Stromgren

Johnny Lester is a name the Bemidji State football team did not forget.

The Minot State sophomore returned a kick and punt for touchdowns in last season's meeting between the two teams and he almost turned out to be the difference in the game.

Bemidji State and Minot State meet again today at 7 p.m. in the season opener at Chet Anderson Stadium in the annual Beaver Bash.

"Last year, (special teams) was a big problem for us," Bemidji State head coach Jeff Tesch said. "They've got a great return man ... he can break it at anytime he gets the ball."

This time around, Bemidji State feels more prepared for Lester, who finished with three return touchdowns in conference play last season and was the top return man in the Dakota Athletic Conference.

Tesch knows stopping Lester and limiting special teams miscues will play an important role in tonight's game.

"I think they know that (Lester) really hurt us last year so one of the goals is just to really get down there, contain and hustle a little bit better," Tesch said.

Tiger Ellison, Bemidji State's starting cornerback this season, plays on kickoff return and coverage teams.

"We just need to make sure that everyone is in position, we execute and everyone gets to the ball," he said. "We have to make sure that he gets no space and we get him moving from side to side."

Without Lester's performance last season, Bemidji State's 27-24 victory would not have been as close.

While Lester provided drama in the middle of the game with his two touchdown returns, it was Bemidji State quarterback Derek Edholm was the difference maker at the end of the game when it mattered most.

He brought Bemidji State within five points by leading the offense down the field for a touchdown at the end of the third quarter and hit George Kadlec on a 3-yard pass with 3:24 left in the game for the go-ahead touchdown.

Edholm is back under center tonight as a junior after an all-NSIC second team season in his first full year as starting quarterback.

Bemidji State wide receiver Andrew Schultz will be taking over Kadlec's position as the No. 1 wide receiver on the depth chart.

"They (Minot State) have a really good defensive back and they are going to play a lot of cover four on us," Abrams said.

With Minot State playing to prevent the deep pass, look for Bemidji State to use short and quick passes to exploit the defense. Using a spread style offense with quick routes is expected to be a strong area this season on offense for the Beavers.

On defense, Minot State's offense will use a variety of plays to try and trip up Bemidji State.

"The one thing about them is their formations can get crazy at times," Ellison said. "And their wide receiver is really fast."

The wide receiver? Return man Johnny Lester. He was the No. 4 ranked receiver in the DAC last season.

After a long summer, Bemidji State is eager to start the 2009 season and are hoping to improve on last season's 5-6 overall record (4-6 NSIC).

At home and under the lights will be a good place to start that quest. The Bemidji State players are also hoping for a strong crowd.

The BSU Community Appreciation Day is being held on campus prior to the game and all tickets to the game are half price.

"I think we're ready to go," Ellison said. "It's good to get that first game in to get rid of the jitters for some of the younger guys and playing at home under the lights will bring back some high school memories. It would mean a lot of the fans showed up and we had a good atmosphere. With the surge of freshmen on campus I think there will be a good turnout. Momentum is everything in a football game and hopefully the fans will help us with that."

E Bemidji State lost projected No. 1 running back Brandon Miles for the season due to an ACL injury sustained in fall drills. Redshirt freshman Dustin Kroeplin will start tonight's game in his first career appearance at BSU.

- Tonight's game marks the start of Jeff Tesch's 14th season as BSU football head coach. He brings an 83-57 overall record as BSU head coach into the 2009 season.

- Bemidji State has won the last six straight games against Minot State and holds a 9-1 all time record over MSU. Tonight's game marks the 11th annual 'Beaver Bash' between the two namesake teams.

- Bemidji High School grad Trace Jahner is a freshman defensive back for Minot State.

- BSU is opening the season at home for only the fifth time in the last 14 years.


Line: LT Davis Mickelson So., LG Steve Pappas So., C Cory Immerman So., RG Jordan Anderson So., RT Alonzo Melton RT.

QB: Derek Edholm Jr.

RB: Dustin Kroeplin Fr.

WR: Andrew Schultz Jr., Justin Lee Fr., Jody Henningson So., Cameron Abrams So.


Line: DE Rob Wills Jr., DT Bryan Wick Sr., DE Jordan Lardinois Jr.

LB: OLB Jake Anderson Sr., ILB Alex Mock So., ILB Andrew Eagan Jr., OLB Luke Knutson So.

CB: Tiger Ellison Sr., Sid Johnson Jr.

S: Dusty Sluzewicz Fr. Brody Scheff Fr.

K/P: Jesse Sundby, So.

PR: Justin Lee, Fr.

KR: Tiger Ellison, Sr.