BURNSVILLE -- For the third straight year, a Beaver is the conference’s preseason defensive player of the year.

Bemidji State junior Gabe Ames, a linebacker out of Rosemount, headlined the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference’s football selections with the top defensive honor of the preseason. Additionally, BSU ranked fifth in the coaches’ poll and second in the North Division.

Ames is a two-time all-conference defender, and he led the Beavers with 81 tackles and 12 tackles for loss in 2018. He had seven pass breakups, two forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks and one interception during Bemidji State’s 7-4 campaign last season. The defensive player of the year honor follows in the footsteps of former BSU defensive back Gunner Olszewski, who earned the accolade in 2017 and 2018.

Gabe Ames
Gabe Ames

On the other side of the ball, senior offensive lineman Nicholas Niemi was named the Beavers’ Offensive Player to Watch. The Cloquet native started eight of 10 games on the offensive line last season, including six at left tackle. He helped BSU rank third in the Northern Sun with 38.2 points per game, fourth with 214.7 rushing yards and fifth with 393.9 total yards.

Nicholas Niemi
Nicholas Niemi

In the coaches’ poll, Minnesota State topped all schools with 224 points and 14 first-place votes. Minnesota Duluth was picked to finish second with 208 points, while Sioux Falls (187), Winona State (182) and Bemidji State (169) rounded out the top five.

In the North Division poll, UMD received seven first-place votes for 49 points. The Beavers received the other first-place vote and came in second with 42 points.

Minnesota Duluth quarterback John Larson was named the NSIC North preseason offensive player of the year, while Winona State linebacker Nick Pridgeon and Sioux Falls running back Gabe Watson respectively earned the defensive and offensive honors in the South Division.

The new season opens for Bemidji State on Sept. 5 at Northern State in Aberdeen, S.D., while its first home game comes Sept. 12 against U-Mary.

NSIC Preseason Coaches’ Poll

1-Minnesota State 224; 2-Minnesota Duluth 208; 3-Sioux Falls 187; 4-Winona State 182; 5-Bemidji State 169; 6-Augustana 158; 7-Minnesota State Moorhead 138; 8-St. Cloud State 134; 9-Concordia-St. Paul 109; 10-Northern State 90; T11-Southwest Minnesota State 79; T11-Upper Iowa 79; 13-Wayne State 73; 14-U-Mary 39; 15-Minot State 36; 16-Minnesota Crookston 15.

NSIC North Division Preseason Coaches’ Poll

1-Minnesota Duluth 49; 2-Bemidji State 42; 3-Minnesota State Moorhead 35; 4-St. Cloud State 34; 5-Northern State 24; 6-U-Mary 17; 7-Minot State 16; 8-Minnesota Crookston 7.