Bemidji HS football hosts Brainerd in a tough test
The youthful Bemidji Lumberjacks football team steps into the lions den tonight, taking on the first of the CLC's top two teams at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Brainerd is the opponent tonight with St. Cloud Tech to follow next Friday.
That pair met in the season opener with Brainerd winning a 10-9 defensive struggle.
Bemidji lost its opener at Willmar 26-19, the victim of five turnovers, two of them returned for touchdowns.
But with another full week to polish the product, Coach Troy Hendricks hopes for a better showing tonight.
Bemidji did a lot of good things at Willmar, gaining 412 yards, 239 through the air, and showing signs of developing into an offensive threat.
Sophomore Mitch Hendricks hit 12-26 for two touchdowns finding six different targets including Ryan Rude, who grabbed four for 132 yards and a touchdown.
Brainerd went 7-3 last fall, losing to Tech by three and Fergus Falls by two in the CLC race and falling to Buffalo 20-14 in overtime in the 8-5A semifinals.
But Bemidji gave the Warriors all they wanted in their meeting before bowing 21-14 a Brainerd.
Bemidji battled back from a 21-0 deficit in the third period to score twice on Travis Greenwaldt plunges and was stopped three times during the game inside the red zone.
Overall it was out gained only 343-296 on the night.
Brainerd has won the past nine meetings between the pair to take a 32-26-2 lead in the series that dates back to 1913.
The last Bemidji win was the dramatic 26-20 upset in the 2000 playoffs.
Defense figures to be the Warriors strong suit this year with six starters back.
It proved to be so last week, holding Tech to only three field goals. Brainerd, ironically, won on a field goal in the final minutes to overcome a 9-7 deficit.
Five of the six returnees are in the secondary three linebackers, a corner and safety. The rebuilt line, however, had a strong showing against the Tigers.
Aaron Pavek (57 tackles) is the only veteran up front. Linebackers Jordan Goos and Sam Pagel had 106 and 104.
Senior Reed Mimmack has taken over the quarterback spot and played mistake free football in his opening game.
Mimmack will open with Jaron Hanson and Carsten Nelson as his running backs. Mike Bdzok and Kyle Crocker are the wide receivers with Cole Stegora at tight end.
The interior line has Jacob and Charles Kassulker, Joe Haeg, Kurt Fahlen and Mitchell Weideman who range from 205-255.
On defense, Kris Garin, Pavek and Sam Lastovich are the front three. The backers are Taylor Main, Goos, Jaime Barry and Pagel; with Nate Rusk, Tyler Kohlmeier, Nate Dervanek and Logan Stall as the deep for.
Few changes are planned for Bemidji.
Hendricks will open with Evan Olson at fullback and Czar Woods at halfback. Carey Woods and Cole Bardwell will alternate at split end with Will Bruestle tight backed by Ryan Stevens.
Lukas Dudley will center with Chris Madson and Jake Gruber at the guards and Zach Solheim and Grant Richardson at the tackles and Chris Dudley alternating in. Madson at 240 and Chris Dudley at 235 are the biggest of this grip.
On defense, Corey Huber will play the nose with Logan Knutson and Frank Mays at defensive end.
The linebackers are Cody Feat, Ernie Heifort, Olson and Collin Hilmer with Carey and Czar Woods at the corners and Forrest Moe and Matt Hietala deep.
This leaves only the Woods brothers and Olson going both ways, a vast improvement over last year when upwards of 8-9 players went both ways down the stretch.
The first tailgate party of the fall will take place from 5:30-6:30 at the west entrance to the stadium.
Fans can pick up their brat or hot dog, chips, a Lumberjack chocolate chip cookie and beverage and sit in the stands to eat. Cost of the party is $3.