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Bemidji faces Grand Rapids Friday in Homecoming game

 BEMIDJI – Homecoming can create unique distractions for high school football players but in the view of Bemidji head coach Troy Hendricks, the annual celebration creates more positives than negatives.

“I look at Homecoming as a special event and an opportunity for the kids to participate in all of the school activities,” Hendricks said. “Homecoming is the chance to develop Lumberjack Pride and get fired up to play a football game.

“I know I don’t like playing at another team’s Homecoming and I can’t imagine they want to play at ours.”

Like it or not, Grand Rapids has drawn the short straw and 7 p.m. Friday the Thunderhawks will try to spoil Bemidji’s Homecoming celebration.

The Lumberjacks bring a 2-2 record into the contest. They have defeated Duluth Denfeld 45-14 and Duluth East 14-7 but opened the year with a 34-30 loss at Moorhead and last week squandered a 14-0 first-quarter lead and fell 40-23 at Brainerd.

Grand Rapids is 0-4. It opened the campaign with a 27-7 loss to Duluth East and also has been beaten by Moorhead (41-21), St. Cloud Tech (47-35) and Sartell (27-8).

Last week BHS led Brainerd 17-12 after three quarters but saw the Warriors erupt for 28 points in the final 12 minutes to erase that deficit.

“The fourth quarter was extremely disappointing,” Hendricks said. “We had won three straight quarters and were ahead 17-12. With five minutes to go we were down only four points. But the ending of the game was totally unacceptable. We got our butts kicked in the fourth quarter.”

The final minutes of Friday’s contest spoiled what had been a solid performance by the Lumberjacks.

“Overall we played very good football and that’s what I told the kids this week,” the coach said. “But we made too many mistakes in that fourth quarter.”

The late errors included a pass interception, a lost fumble and a series of penalties. Horrible weather conditions, including steady rain and wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour, also hampered players on both sides of the ball.

“We tried to survive the weather,” Hendricks said. “Luckily I don’t think we’ll have any weather problems on Friday.”

It should be a perfect night for a football game, Chet Anderson Stadium is the perfect venue and the Jacks will be ready, according to Hendricks.

“The past two weeks the kids have practiced very well,” the coach said. “Their attitude is positive and I look for them to perform well and put on a show for the fans.”

Bemidji is averaging 86 yards through the air and 213 yards on the ground. Grand Rapids is struggling offensively, managing only 73 passing yards and 87 running yards per week.

Tanner Boes is Bemidji’s leading runner with 338 yards and four touchdowns in 54 carries. Quarterback James Hendricks has 176 yards and two scores on 28 runs.

Brady Schmidt has rushed 21 times for 149 yards and two TDs.

Jaylen Ingalls leads the receivers with nine catches and 139 yards. Alex Fenson has seven receptions for 93 yards.

“The guys are confident about this week and the rest of the year,” Hendricks said. “We feel that we have already played some of the toughest teams on our schedule and three of our final four games are at home.

“We feel we have the tools to be a successful team but we need to go out and play four quarters. If we do that, the score will take care of itself,” the coach added.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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