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FOOTBALL: Bemidji State defense shines in spring game as Beavers count down to fall

The Bemidji State football team held its annual Green and White Spring Game at a chilly Chet Anderson Stadium, pitting the offense against the defense in front of a faithful and robust crowd in the stands. The defense stole the show with what it hopes will be a sneak peek of the fall season to come.

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The Bemidji State defense congratulates junior Jarrett Klein (33) after winning a drill during BSU's Green and White Spring Game on Saturday, April 16, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI -- The "Gang Green" defense was back out in full force on Saturday.

The Bemidji State football team held its annual Green and White Spring Game at a chilly Chet Anderson Stadium, pitting the offense against the defense in front of a faithful and robust crowd in the stands. The defense stole the show with what it hopes will be a sneak peek of the fall season to come.

“Today was a good show of the competitiveness that we have on the team and how bad the defense wants to do better than last year,” senior defensive end Colbey Wadsworth said. “Last year, the offense was our money maker. This year, we want to make a name for ourselves and get Gang Green defense back to what it used to be.”

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Bemidji State junior Anthony Ladd (27) runs with the football during BSU's Green and White Spring Game on Saturday, April 16, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

The Beavers took the first step on Saturday, defeating the offense 44-32 with a modified scoring system mixed with drills and live action.

“Our defensive front in the first half, when we had our starters out there… they controlled the game,” BSU head coach Brent Bolte said. “Defensively, we played well. And (the offense) got opportunities later in the game.”

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The first half consisted of drills -- ranging from physical one-on-ones to long-snapping dodgeball -- that awarded points to the winning side, and the Bemidji State defense built up a 26-6 advantage by halftime. The second half featured more traditional game action with points awarded for touchdowns, first downs, defensive stops and the like.

In that second half, fans were treated to a few highlight-worthy moments, as many of the younger players showcased themselves with extra playing time. Sophomore defensive back Brian Boettcher reeled in an interception in the secondary, while redshirt freshman DB Sean Cortright broke through blockers for a nice tackle-for-loss.

Offensively, redshirt freshman running back David Collins had a few impressive, physical rushes that went for big yardage. And the fireworks came from senior wide receivers -- when Andy McCance hit Mike Wandmaker in stride for a 51-yard touchdown reception and when Dhel Duncan-Busby reeled in a 28-yard TD snag from Cade Baumgardner.

“Five straight weeks of banging heads with the same guys gets a little repetitive,” Wandmaker said. “It’s fun to get back in the jerseys and feel that game-like atmosphere again. … It’s just coming out here to have fun.”

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Bemidji State quarterback Cade Baumgardner (63) high-fives junior Brady Bartz (30) during BSU's Green and White Spring Game on Saturday, April 16, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Speaking of fun, there was a lot of that, too. While the game-day feeling was a breath of fresh air, it’s still a different experience when lining up against teammates. Understandably, the friendly trash talk came out in spades.

“It’s a nice way to inspire a little more energy when we’re having flat days,” Wadsworth said, not hiding a sly grin. “It’s never malicious. We’re always trying to bring out the best in each other.”

At the same time, they all share a common goal. While last year’s history-making season ended with an NCAA Tournament appearance and a first-round victory -- the program’s first-ever for each -- sights are now firmly set on the fall of 2022.

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The Bemidji State offense celebrates after winnng a drill during BSU's Green and White Spring Game on Saturday, April 16, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“It’s fun to look back and say we had a good year, but we’re moving forward. You have to,” Bolte said. “It takes a special year to get to the playoffs. You’ve got to get the right bounces, you have to stay healthy. We’ll have to find a way to replicate that.

“I do think, on paper, we probably have as good a team. I feel like we could be better.”

The Beavers are more than hungry to return to real games in the fall and prove as much. Just ask Wadsworth.

“We’re starving. Starving,” he said. “We can’t wait to get out there. I, personally, cannot wait to get back out there. I don’t think the summer and the (early) fall are going to go by fast enough.”

Micah Friez is the sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he joined the Pioneer in 2015 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Lumberjack and Beaver updates.
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