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Bemidji football: Schram anchors solid offensive line for state-bound Jacks

When Ben Schram plays a perfect game no one will notice, except for his offensive line coach. And that is fine with him.

"As an offensive lineman it is best to finish a game relatively unnoticed," said Schram, who is the center on the Bemidji High School football team. "As a center my first job is to get the ball to the quarterback as well as I can and then I make the block."

Schram and his linemates have been key components of Bemidji's run to the state tournament and they will be on the field 8 p.m. Friday when the No. 3 ranked Lumberjacks tangle with Spring Lake Park in the quarterfinal round of the Class 4-A tournament at St. Cloud State.

BHS will bring a 10-0 record into the game while Spring Lake Park, which finished sixth in the Class 4-A poll, is 9-1.

The Jacks are averaging 37.8 points per game and have had many opportunities to inflate that figure during the latter stages of blowout victories. Instead of running up the score, however, the coaching staff has pulled the starters and inserted the reserves.

All season long the Bemidji backfield has heaped praise on the offensive line and its ability to open wide holes and protect the quarterback.

Those abilities will be put to the test Friday as, statistically, Spring Lake Park's defense is rated the best in the state.

"They only allow six points per game," said BHS coach Troy Hendricks. "Spring Lake Park is big, relentless and more physical than any team we have faced this year. Our job will be to match that intensity."

Offensively Schram leads the line into battle as his job description includes recognizing defenses and adjusting the blocking.

"We have pre-set blocking schemes but my job is to recognize the defensive front and make the call based on our schemes," the senior said. "We have some amazing guys in the backfield as we just try to make the blocks so they can make things happen."

Schram is pleased with the way the season has progressed but he knows that the line will be severely tested on Friday.

"Spring Lake Park's defense is very fast and very aggressive and we will need to make sure that we are right-on with all of our blocks," Schram said. "And we also will have to hold our blocks all the way through the whistle. Spring Lake Park will play to the whistle and we will have to as well."

Hendricks is very happy with the way his athletes have overcome every challenge and he expects a similar performance Friday.

"We expected to be at the state tournament and we expect to win Friday," the coach said. "But we know that Spring Lake Park is a very good football team and they expect to win as well. The matchup between our offense and their defense will tell a lot about the outcome. If we can sustain our drives and pick up our third downs I think we will be fine.

"But if Spring Lake Park forces us to pass the ball all of the time, it could be a tough night for us," the coach said.

If the Jacks defeat Spring Lake Park they will advance to the state semifinals on Nov. 18 and a game against either Mankato West or South St. Paul at the Metrodome.

Mankato West is the top-ranked Class 4-A team in the state and is making its fourth consecutive appearance in the tournament. South St. Paul finished ninth in the poll.

"In our bracket there is not a weak team," Hendricks said. "Last November our kids set a goal to get to the Metrodome and eventually win the state title. Those are still our goals and now we have to get past Spring Lake Park to make it happen."

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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