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INDOOR FOOTBALL: Wooten out as Axemen head coach

Former Bemidji Axemen head coach Dixie Wooten reacts to a call during a recent Indoor Football League game earlier this season at the Sanford Center. The Axemen announced Wednesday that they had fired Wooten, who was in his first year of coaching the team. Kris Lodes | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI -- Dixie Wooten is no longer the head coach of the Bemidji Axemen after going 2-8 in his first season in charge.

The firing was announced on Wednesday via a press release from the Axemen stating that Wooten would be released of his football operations and head coaching duties effective immediately.

Associate head coach Lee Patten will take over for the final four games of the season.

“On behalf of this whole organization I would like to thank Dixie for his dedication to the Axemen and this community,” Axemen general manager Adam Barnhardt said in the release. “We wish him nothing but the best for his future endeavours.”

In the Axemen’s inaugural 2014 season, Wooten served as the defensive coordinator under then head coach Robert Fuller.

The Axemen went 5-9 in 2014; the team parted ways with Fuller after that season.

Wooten was named head coach in the summer following the 2014 season.

Now the team will be looking for another head coach for 2016 -- the third in as many seasons.

Axemen players were informed of the move on Monday, two days after Bemidji lost to the Colorado Ice, 37-27, on Saturday night in Fort Collins, Colo.

The loss extended their losing streak to six games.

“It came as a shock to all of us,” running back Mulku Kalokoh said. “That’s the decision the organization made and that’s what they want to do to prepare for the future.”

The players and remaining coaches -- defensive coordinator Aquanius Frazier and line coach Andy Endemann were also let go -- are rallying around each other for the final four games.

The team practiced with a lot of energy on Wednesday and interim coach Patten called it a great practice.

“We’ve got four games left to play and we have to show up,” Patten said. “We’re trying to make sure we are in a position to go out there and play good football and not get embarrassed.

“We want to finish the season out as strong as we can. We’re not focusing on wins and losses, but playing good football.”

The Axemen will hit the turf for the first time without Wooten at 8:15 p.m. Saturday when they travel to play the Billings Wolves (1-8), the only team in the IFL with a worse record than the Axemen.

Wooten was not able to comment on the team's decision at this time.

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