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Bemidji HS football: Heifort plays with broken bones to keep senior season alive

Midway through the season Ernie Heifort broke his hand in two places during Bemidji's 14-7 victory at Alexandria.

The linebacker and defensive lineman didn't let the injury ruin his senior season, however. Heifort missed only one game, a 20-16 Bemidji victory over Sauk Rapids, and only because doctors had to wait for the swelling to subside before they could put apply a cast. Once that was accomplished Heifort was back onto the field and his efforts helped lead the Lumberjacks to a 22-7 victory at St. Cloud Tech and a 7-0 win at Sartell.

Heifort will be back on the field Saturday when the 7-1 Lumberjacks open Section 7-4A play at home against Hermantown. Hermantown defeated Cloquet 18-7 Tuesday in the first round of the playoffs and advanced to Saturday's game against the?Lumberjacks.

Game time is set for at 6 p.m. at Chet Anderson Stadium.

At 6-5 and 230 pounds Heifort has the size and the muscle to dominate on either side of the ball. Defense, however, is where he prefers to play.

"I like playing defense more than offense because you get to hit on every play," Heifort said. "I guess I have a more physical type of mindset."

Prior to his injury Heifort was Bemidji's middle linebacker. Wearing a cast, however, limits a player's ability to grab and tackle so Heifort was switched to defensive end where his injury would least hinder his talents.

"The middle linebacker is the quarterback of the defense," Heifort said. "It's a fun position to play and holds a lot of responsibility. But my role on this football team is to be a vocal leader and lead by example and I can do that as a defensive end."

Heifort's climb to the top of the high school football ladder is no accident. He is dedicated to the sport and has always gone the extra mile to make sure he can handle the physical challenges.

"I've been lifting and doing speed workouts with my dad," Heifort said, referring to Ernie, Sr. who is Bemidji's junior varsity coach. "Last spring we did workouts every week and we did different drills to make myself faster and more expolsive.

"And those workouts really helped," Heifort added.

They also have enabled Heifort to catch the eyes of major college football scouts, including those at the University of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

"Right now I am leaning toward playing for Minnesota or Wisconsin but it will come down to which school offers what," Heifort said. "So far I have been contacted by many schools but I haven't made a final decision."

While Minnesota and Wisconsin may be at the top of Heifort's list other contenders include Michigan State, Air Force and many smaller Division I schools.

"He wants a good education and some playing time and we'll see where things take us," said Ernie Heifort, Sr. "Ernie has a 3.9 GPA and wants to be an engineer so a quality education is as important as playing football."

Heifort is in no rush to commit to a school. The national signing day isn't until February and, right now, he has more important concerns.

"I want to help Bemidji get to the Metrodome," Heifort said, referring to the state tournament semifinals. "We have the team that can do it and I want to help us get there."

NOTE: Fans attending Saturday's 6 p.m. game are invited to a tailgate party sponsored by the football boosters. The tailgate will be from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the BSU American Indian Resource Center parking lot. The menu will include brats, hamburgers, chips and soda and the cost is $3.

If BHS wins Saturday it will host the section championship game 7 p.m. Nov. 5.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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