FOOTBALL: Lumberjacks’ defense staying vocal, as many return from 2014
BEMIDJI -- There was a lot of talking going on at Bemidji High School's first practice of the season on Monday. Most of it was coming from the defense.
BEMIDJI - There was a lot of talking going on at Bemidji High School’s first practice of the season on Monday. Most of it was coming from the defense.
The Lumberjacks return a lot players from last season’s team, many of whom saw significant playing time on the defensive side of the ball.
“Defensively, we have a lot of kids who are capable of leading that group,” said BHS head coach Troy Hendricks. “It’s easy to lead when you’re just in helmets here, when there is a little adversity we’ll see who is being positive and encouraging.”
One player with a lot of experience on the defensive side of the ball is senior cornerback Nate Gubbels.
Gubbels has been playing on the varsity since he was a sophomore and he’s looking to step up during his senior year.
“Yeah I try to be (a leader),” Gubbels said. “I’ve been trying to step it up and lead the way by staying vocal, keep the guys talking and the energy going. The whole defense with its energy going is something to see and it’s fun to be out there.”
Joining Gubbels as a captain on the defense is senior linebacker Wyatt Yartz. Also back on defense is senior lineman Grant Kaupan.
Those three are only a few of the players who were vocal Monday, as the veteran defense got together for the first time.
“Those guys are following a long line of defensive leaders,” BHS defensive coordinator Mike Fogelson said. “It all starts with being vocal. You can never over-communicate on defense. Communications leads to enthusiasm on defense, which opposing offenses take notice of.”
The defense gave up an average of 19.1 points per game a year ago, including two shutouts, one against defending Section 8-5A champions Sartell-St. Stephen.
Fogelson is hoping to improve on last season’s success with so many returning players from last season’s team.
“We were somewhat successful last season,” Fogelson said. “We shut down Sartell (31-0) and had a good game against Brainerd (40-14).”
Despite how good the defense was last season, there is always room for improvement.
Fogelson and the Lumberjacks are putting an emphasis on their secondary and shutting down the pass.
Bemidji did a good job at forcing third-and-longs last season, but too many times did the opposing team convert on those downs.
“We need to get off on third down,” Fogelson said. “Protecting against the pass is a point emphasis this year and it’ll help with Gubbels back there. In the past, we’ve been good at forcing third downs, but we need to get off the field.”
Gubbels, Yartz and Kapaun are staying vocal and the three will be looked to lead their respective levels of the defense.
If the defense can keep its voice up and remain energized, Gubbels and the team expect big things in 2015.
“We’ve got to stay vocal and be a hard-nosed team out there,” Gubbels said. “We’ve got to stay mean and start it from day one.”
Look for more coverage of BHS's first day of football practice here , and watch a video here .