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IFL: Axemen elated with debut; team has preseason rematch with Cedar Rapids Saturday

BEMIDJI — Bemidji Axemen head coach Robert Fuller wasn’t sure what to expect when the franchise made its Indoor Football League debut last weekend against Cedar Rapids at the Sanford Center.

By the end of the evening, however, Fuller was elated with the crowd’s response and also his team’s performance in a 40-32 exhibition game loss.

“The turnout was great and the great crowd involvement was probably the one thing in the entire experience that I was most happy with,” Fuller said. “I think from top to bottom it was a real positive experience for our football team and the entire organization.

“We wanted to be able to put on a good show for our fans and, all things considered, after only six days of practice I think we did. And that was a highlight for me.”

The Axemen and Cedar Rapids will conclude their home-and-home preseason series 7 p.m. Saturday in Cedar Rapids. The regular season will begin Feb. 22 at home against Green Bay.

Between now and the Green Bay game the Axemen have much to work on, according to Fuller.

“From a football standpoint we were able to execute some things well in the preseason opener. But we have a large number of rookies and we still are learning the indoor game. What better way to learn than to get thrown right into the action?

“Last week I thought, defensively, our guys did a very good job against a very high-powered offense,” the coach continued. “And I really liked the way we were able to overcome our many self-inflicted errors and still be in position late to drive and (potentially) win the game.”

Saturday’s contest is the last chance for the Axemen to work out the early-season kinks prior to the regular-season opener against Green Bay. Fuller will be looking for improvement in all phases and he believes his players will deliver.

“We will want to minimize the mistakes we made in the first game and execute in all three phases much better than we did last week,” the coach said. “The second week of training camp is designed to operate more efficiently and at a higher level. And this week we will have to do those things in front of a very loud Cedar Rapids crowd.

“The Cedar Rapids fans are a rowdy crew and they make it fun to play on the road because they create the type of atmosphere that you want. We’re going to be in some very tough road venues this year and it will be good for us to experience this right off the bat,” Fuller added.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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