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Bemidji State football: Beavers vie for playoffs at Concordia-St. Paul

Brent Kondziolka (left), Tiger Ellison (right) and the BSU football team take on Concordia Saturday. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

What a difference one week can make.

The Bemidji State football team beat U-Mary last Saturday and combined with key losses from other teams in the region, the postseason is possible again for the Beavers.

The Beavers could attain the first Division II national playoff berth in school history and become a favorite to reach the Mineral Water Bowl with a win Saturday against Concordia-St. Paul.

With Saturday's 1 p.m. season finale at Sea Foam Stadium looming, Bemidji State head coach Jeff Tesch is not indulging in the possibilities of football beyond this week.

"You can't just look at this as an ordinary game," Tesch said. "We've got to have a win to have a chance at a bowl game and we've got to win to have a chance to get in the playoffs. The kids have been very focused, we've had a great week of practice and we're ready to go."

Bemidji State (7-3 overall, 6-3 NSIC) is currently ranked No. 7 in the NCAA Super Region Three rankings.

The Beavers had dropped out of the rankings after the loss to Minnesota-Duluth two weeks ago.

But a perfect storm happened in last weekend's games with the Beavers' 21-0 win over U-Mary and losses by key ranked teams in the region.

That combination bumped up Bemidji State to No. 7 and makes a bubble team for the 24-team national tournament.

"I didn't think we were going to jump up that high," Bemidji State quarterback Derek Edholm said. "I thought maybe we'd see the 10 spot or the 9 spot. But it was definitely nice to see. It got us a little more excited and made Saturday's game that much bigger."

On Sunday, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee will pick the top six teams from each of the four super regions in the country to make the Division II playoffs.

The committee does not have to follow the rankings, which set by a different NCAA committee, but it is used as a guideline.

There are two ways Bemidji State can make the national field and it starts by beating Concordia-St. Paul (3-7 overall, 3-6 NSIC).

A loss to the Golden Bears will end Bemidji State's season.

Ranked at No. 5 in the super region is Saginaw Valley State and at No. 6 is Hillsdale, both Great Lakes Conference teams.

The Beavers need one of those teams to lose Saturday to crack the top six, but the odds are stacked against BSU. Saginaw Valley State hosts 1-9 Ferris State and Hillsdale hosts 0-10 Tuffin.

Even if Hillsdale wins, there is a possibility Bemidji State could sneak in on a strength of schedule tiebreaker, but those tiebreakers are subject to debate by the committee.

"I've been on that committee and you never know because it comes down to so strict a criteria," Tesch said. "I've heard people on different blogs and things I never read have computed all that and say there is a chance. But all we can do is go down and play our best and take care of business."

Should BSU not make the playoffs, the Mineral Water Bowl is a real possibility.

The annual game played at Tiger Stadium in Excelsior Springs Missouri pits the top NSIC and top MIAA team not to make the playoffs on Dec. 4.

Bemidji State reached the Mineral Water Bowl in 2006 and lost to Pittsburg State.

"We know that we have a good shot at the postseason whether it be the Mineral Water Bowl or the playoffs," Edholm said. "So with a win on Saturday we have more football and that's a lot of motivation. Everyone's not ready for the season to be over."

Bemidji State's reliable and consistent defense turned in a strong showing last week at U-Mary and that unit will look to close out the season strong at Concordia. The Beavers allowed only one touchdown and it came in the final minutes of the fourth quarter when the game was in hand. BSU also had three interceptions against the Marauders.

Concordia has a balanced offense led by running back Sam Campbell (500 yards, 6 touchdowns) and quarterback Mitch Brecke, who has thrown for 1,740 yards and nine touchdowns this season.

"We're trying to figure out their tendencies and watch for the trick plays," Bemidji State junior safety Aaron Roland said.

Bemidji State's offense has been slowed down by tougher defenses over the last two weeks, but is still an efficient unit.

Edholm leads the offense and is one of the top quarterbacks in the conference with 1,489 yards, 22 passing touchdowns and seven rushing touchdowns.

Dustin Kropelin is also enjoying a fine freshman season with 810 yards and nine touchdowns.

"We have to be ready for every situation, we're preparing for everything and (Concordia) is a dangerous team," Edholm said. "We cannot go down there flat or anything like that and we're ready to go."