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Lumberjacks football: Bemidji heads to Chisago Lakes in section semifinals

BEMIDJI — The second leg of a three-step process for the Bemidji High School football team will be taken today when the Lumberjacks head to Chisago Lakes for the Section 7-5A quarterfinals.

The kickoff is set for 3 p.m. and today’s contest will feature the No. 3 seeded Jacks (7-2) against the No. 2 seeded Wildcats (7-1).

Today’s winner will continue its playoff run Friday against either No. 1 ranked Brainerd (8-0) or No. 4 seeded Cambridge (6-3). Those teams will also meet today in Brainerd.

BHS is no stranger to deep runs in the section tournament as the Lumberjacks have claimed the section title the past four years.

In 2011 Bemidji advanced all the way to the Class 4A state championship game where it lost to Rocori. A year ago the Lumberjacks were elevated to Class 5A and the season didn’t’ end until the state semifinals at the Metrodome.

“We have been here. The kids know how to prepare and know what is needed to take the season to the next level,” BHS coach Troy Hendricks said. “The kids know how to finish big games and, hopefully, the experience we’ve gained during the past few years will help us on Saturday.”

By necessity, the Jacks also have learned how to adjust their schemes and their personnel. During Tuesday’s 42-6 victory over Duluth East in the section quarterfinals BHS was forced to play without three key defensive players. Linebackers Aaron Bofferding (broken leg) and Sam Bruestle (shoulder) were on the sidelines along with defensive back Nathan Gubbels (broken leg).

It is thought that Bofferding and Gubbels actually sustained their injuries a few weeks ago but they each played a couple of games before the hairline cracks surfaced.

On the plus side, however, Isaac Klinke (shoulder) returned to the defense last week and Ben Christopher (leg) and Jaylen Ingalls (ankle) are back at 100 percent efficiency.

Bruestle also is ready to go after missing a couple of games.

“It looks like the only two guys who will be out are Aaron and Nate,” Hendricks said. “We have spent the week making the necessary adjustments and we’ll be ready to go on Saturday.”

Chisago Lakes is extremely fast and plays an aggressive brand of football on both sides of the ball.

“Is Chisago Lakes as fast as we are? That’s a great question,” Hendricks said. “I guess we’ll find out on Saturday but I do know that Chisago Lakes is a very good team and will present a stiff challenge.”

At this stage of the season only the best teams in the state are still playing and staring across the line at a quality opponent is what the playoffs are all about.

“We’re into the fun part of the season,” Hendricks said, “and hopefully we can extend this fun into the Thanksgiving break. The playoffs are why we go through the eight-game regular season.”

Hendricks becomes excited at this juncture of the season and he can tell that his players are reacting in the same way.

“I noticed right away that the kids have a different attitude this week and I am impressed,” the coach said. “We’ve watched hours of tape on Chisago Lakes, we have formulated our game plan and now it’s a matter of execution.

“At this stage all we can do is fine tune,” Hendricks continued. “The nights come early now and practices become short. But our goal is to be practicing again on Monday and to prepare for another game.”

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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