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Bemidji High School football team has memorable season despite loss in 4A championship game

Saturday's state Class 4A championship game at the Metrodome did not provide the storybook ending that all Bemidji players, coaches and fans had hoped for.

When the horn sounded on a 17-10 loss to Rocori the Lumberjacks had to settle for second place, a position that no one who made the trip to Minneapolis wanted.

Rocori didn't want second place either, and the Spartans gave themselves a chance to claim the top prize by implementing a completely new defensive scheme and playing, probably, their best game of the year.

If the teams were to meet again the Lumberjacks would most likely win. But they will not meet again, at least not this year.

"This loss will take a while to recover from but we will recover," Bemidji head coach Troy Hendricks said Monday. "It is hard for the staff to look at the second place trophy. We were hoping for something better. But we overcame many obstacles to get as far as we did and when you look back on the year, we had a great season."

Hendricks is right. It was a season to remember.

The Lumberjacks finished 12-1 and were a play or two away from winning the state championship. The road to the Prep Bowl was highlighted by a team cohesion that forced each individual to play at the highest level.

On the scoreboard, Bemidji fashioned an 8-0 regular season, a record that included wins over arch rivals Brainerd and Moorhead. During the Section 7 playoffs, BHS played inspired football in front of large home crowds. And during the state tournament, the Jacks gave a championship performance against Spring Lake Park at St. Cloud and an unbelievable effort in the semifinal win over Mankato West.

Unfortunately, the Lumberjacks were unable to duplicate that performance Saturday against Rocori.

"Rocori came out with a different defense than we expected," Hendricks said. "Rocori had five guys in the box and we had trouble adjusting. We were sacked more in this game (four times) than in any other game this year. We also had a punt blocked and four turnovers. You can't make those mistakes in a state championship game."

"But, overall, we will look back on the season with fond memories," Hendricks continued. "If somebody would have told the kids before the season that they would give them second place in the state I think the kids would have taken it."

Saturday's game officially ended competitive fall athletics at BHS and now everyone can look ahead to winter. Many of the athletes who played on the Metrodome carpet will be on the court, the mat, the ice and the pool in the upcoming weeks, representing their school as members of the basketball, wrestling, hockey and swimming teams.

The experience the players gained by playing in the state championship game will transfer into their winter pursuits and should make the athletes and the teams that much more hungry and competitive. The fall of 2011 was among the most successful seasons at BHS in terms of athletics and fans shouldn't be surprised if the winter is equally exciting and productive.

The week represents the calm before the storm as only the girls hockey, boys hockey and girls basketball teams are in action.

Both hockey teams will be home Tuesday as the girls entertain Warroad at the Sanford Center while the boys open their campaign against East Grand Forks at the Bemidji Community Arena.

Both games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. starts.

The boys team will also be home 7:30 p.m. Thursday when it battles St. Cloud Apollo at the BCA.

A pair of events are scheduled for Friday and both will be on the road.

The girls hockey team will travel to Richmond to take on River Lakes (Rocori) at 7 p.m. while the girls basketball team will have its season debut at 7:30 p.m. at Sauk Rapids.

On Sunday the volleyball team will stage its annual team banquet. The event is set for a 4 p.m. start at the BHS Commons.

The volleyball team was one of four section champions at Bemidji this fall, sharing that distinction with the girls swimmers, girls soccer and football teams. Its campaign ended at the state volleyball meet earlier this month.