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Lumberjacks set sights on return trip to Metrodome

BEMIDJI -- A simple philosophy governs the coaching style of Troy Hendricks and his Bemidji High School football staff.

"Each year the kids establish their expectations and the coaching staff will do the best we can to help the kids accomplish those goals," Hendricks said. "In past years the expectation of some teams was to make it to the section championship game. The goal, however, has grown over the years and this year the kids are not content just to get to the section championship game.

"This year's team wants to make it to the Metrodome," the coach said. "That is a lofty goal but it is one that is attainable. I absolutely love it when the kids set lofty goals and the coaches will do everything we can to help the goals become a reality."

Bemidji's recent track record would indicate that playing in the Metrodome is realistic. For the past four years the Jacks have won the section title and have played in the state tournament. And in the past two seasons BHS has made it to the Metrodome, defeating Mankato West in the 2011 Class 4-A semifinals but falling to Rocori in the state final and last season dropping a 23-0 decision to Totino-Grace in the Class 5-A semifinals.

"This isn't my team and it isn't the coaches' team," Hendricks said. "Our job is to try to help the kids become good young men and members of our community. If we win some section championships and make some trips to the Dome along the way, that's great.

"But I also tell the players that each year some kids and some teams are going to play in the Dome and there is no reason why that can't be us," Hendricks continued. "Our kids deserve that opportunity just as much as anybody else does."

Saying that your goal is playing in the Metrodome and actually playing in the state semifinals are two different things, however.

"Last year I had to remind the boys that the goal they had set (to play in the Metrodome) was not attainable based on the attitude they displayed for a few weeks," Hendricks said. "But the kids turned that attitude around and made it to the Dome. This year the coaches will continue to monitor the progress of the players and, when needed, provide the appropriate advice."

After two weeks of practice only a limited amount of advice was needed to the 120 or so players who were in the mix for varsity and junior varsity positions.

"I really like what I see so far," Hendricks said. "I think we are a little ahead of where we were at this time last year. The defense seems to be playing together as one unit and the chemistry seems to be there.

"Offensively we appear to have the weapons that give us the ability to score on any play," he added.

Protecting those offensive weapons and creating the openings for those big plays is among the team challenges this fall. Graduation took the entire offensive line and the coaching staff has been busy constructing a new wall.

"Up front we have nobody back," Hendricks said. "We need to re-do the line."

Once that task is complete the Lumberjacks will be loaded and ready to operate its fast pace, mobile attack.

Directing the offense will be junior James Hendricks who returns to his quarterback position.

"James is 20 pound heavier and two inches taller," the coach said."He also has a year under his belt and that experience shows. We've been able to do more things with James as the quarterback than we could with most kids in that position."

Returning in the backfield is senior Tanner Boes who was a 1,000 yard rusher last fall and scat back Wakinyan Moore.

"Wakinyan will cause fits to defenses," Hendricks said. "During the summer he worked on his hands and on the playbook and he has developed into a valuable weapon."

Bemidji also boasts experience in the receiving corps as seniors Jaylen Ingalls and Ryan Hirt return.

"Jaylen was our 'Z' receiver last year and he had become the weapon on the edge that our offense requires," Hendricks said. "And Ryan has had an unbelievable camp. The coaches are very proud of what Ryan has done this year. His hands and his height make Ryan a nice offensive weapon and he also has developed into a great blocker."

Bemidji's defense should be a strength as a handful of seasoned starters return. That group includes outside linebacker Sam Bruestle, inside linebackers Aaron Bofferding and Andrew Steffes plus noseguard and defensive end Lucas Goins.

"Sam has big shoes to fill but we know he can do it," Hendricks said. "He is a bigger, stronger and faster kid who has worked very hard and is very coachable. We expect good things from Sam this fall."

The coach also expects Bofferding and Steffes to be impact players while Goins has the size and the talent to dominate the line.

Junior lineman Isaac Klinke appears to have made the jump to the varsity from the JV while senior Ben Christopher and junior Will Annette appear to be the leaders of the secondary. Another defensive impact player could be outside linebacker Nik Kavanagh whose work ethic and character has impressed the coaching staff.

"Speed is one of our strengths and that should make our secondary strong," Hendricks said. "And I think our defensive front should be able to shut down the run.

"But my biggest concern is our depth. We need to stay healthy and we have some key spots where we cannot afford injuries," the coach added.

Football teams constantly evolve and Hendricks is eager to see how the 2013 Lumberjacks develop.

"The team right now is feeling itself out and we will see if we can come together as a family," Hendricks said. "I see that happening. Last year it took until Week 9 for us to become a family but once we did we were a very good football team.

"I'm extremely excited about what this team can do," he continued. "We're going to be a fun team to watch. We will show some flash and the new turf at Bemidji State will make us even better. This team is built to play on turf."

Bemidji opens its campaign tonight at Grand Rapids and the home opener, and the first chance to play on the new turf at the BSU field, will be Sept. 6 against Sauk Rapids. Other home games will be Sept. 27 against Rocori, Oct. 11 against Alexandria and Oct. 16 against Moorhead.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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