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FRIEZ COLUMN: 3 cheers for Bemidji State football, soccer and the ‘army’ behind the mega-weekend

Two historic runs collided into one mega-weekend at Chet Anderson Stadium on Nov. 18-20, where the BSU soccer and football programs hosted groundbreaking NCAA Tournament games at home on back-to-back-to-back days. But kudos are also in order for the army behind the scenes that made it function.

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Bemidji State game management workers shovel out snow near the net before penalty kicks in the Central Region championship game of the NCAA Tournament against Emporia State on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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Something Brent Bolte said last week resonated with me.

“I’ve always said that football is an army sport,” the Bemidji State football head coach said. “You’ve got to have an army of players, an army of people behind the scenes to make it function.”

That sentiment rings true for far more than just football. Two historic runs collided into one mega-weekend at Chet Anderson Stadium on Nov. 18-20, where the BSU soccer and football programs hosted groundbreaking NCAA Tournament games at home on back-to-back-to-back days.

Those teams deserve plenty of praise for their accomplishments, full stop. They’ve achieved things that nobody in a Beaver uniform had ever done before, and they’ve raised the bar at Bemidji State forever.

But, like Bolte said, it takes an army to make it function.

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Bemidji State fans cheer after the Beavers scored a touchdown during the second half against Winona State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

The athletes themselves made incredible memories through their play on the field, but that pristine-looking pitch didn’t just happen. It took a shovel party with multiple BSU teams to clear off the snow in the stands and on the field, plus the game management crew scooping it all away both before and during the events.

The heating tents were life-savers for athletes enduring sub-zero cold. The fans didn’t have that luxury, but they still came out in impressive droves to support their teams.

From a media standpoint, the sports information crew was essential for us to do our jobs and share the stories we did. Tyler Christiansen, the assistant director of athletic media relations, has worked 70-hour weeks to make it possible, and he and his staff have done everything from photos and graphics to stat keeping and record watching so that coverage goes off without a hitch. (And, mind you, they were also juggling other Beaver sports going on at the same time.)

Speaking of sharing the stories we did, kudos are in order for Pioneer multimedia editor Madelyn Haasken, who made our stories come to life with excellent photography all three days. The same goes for sports reporter Christian Babcock for finding a secondary story during the frigid football game. I at least got to perch up in the warm press box, but those two bundled up and did their jobs well while braving the cold. Our colleagues and friends in TV and radio also did exceptional work, and I’m proud to work alongside them.

There’s a hundred other folks who had a hand -- from scoreboard operators and cameramen to athletic trainers and referees. It’d be impossible to name everyone, but if you were involved, I hope you take pride in knowing it served our community well.

Like all good things, the unprecedented runs eventually came to an end. The Bemidji State women’s soccer team reached the national quarterfinals before meeting its match, while the BSU football team bowed out in the Sweet 16.

But soccer won the Central Region championship and hosted four rounds of the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever. And football brought the postseason to Bemidji for the first time in program history -- winning its debut in dominant fashion, no less.

I felt fortunate to sit up in the old Chet Anderson Stadium press box to watch it all unfold -- both the action on the field and all the dedicated efforts off of it.

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The old rule for sports scribes is that there’s no cheering allowed in the press box. But cheers are still in order for those involved in such a first-rate, historic weekend at the Chet -- one that BSU ought to be proud of.

112622.N.BP.LIFECOVER MH 1 - 112622.S.BP.BSUFOOT Jalen Frye.jpg
Bemidji State junior Jalen Frye (1) pumps his fist in celebration as the clock runs down during the fourth quarter against Winona State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Nov. 19, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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