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FOOTBALL: BSU kicks off 2018 in primetime against Northern State

The Beavers run a play during practice Tuesday at Chet Anderson Stadium. The BSU football team will host Northern State in the season opener at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- A new season dawns on the Bemidji State football team Thursday, Aug. 30.

The Beavers open 2018 with a primetime matchup against Northern State at 6 p.m. at Chet Anderson Stadium.

The most noticeable change will be at the quarterback position where freshman Brandon Alt will make his first career start after redshirting last year.

“We’re excited about getting him out there and seeing what he can do,” head coach Brent Bolte said.

“There’s going to be jitters,” Alt said. “But I’m ready, focused and I think we’ve got a good game plan going in first week.”

Minus a couple all-league linemen, the offense returns six starters.

Senior running back Andrew Lackowski, the NSIC’s third-leading rusher last season with 959 yards, remains in the backfield.

Jacob Anderson, the Beavers’ top returning receiver, also returns after his 342 yards placed him second on the team in 2017. The junior also tied for the team lead with five touchdown catches with fellow junior Blair Van Ess.

More changes can be seen on the defense, especially with the front seven, as five defensive starters return.

“You look at the defensive line room, the linebacker room, and we have a lot of guys who have not proven themselves on Saturdays yet,” defensive coordinator Jamie Bisch said. “And so for us, we’ve just been talking about being consistent and really breeding competition…. The competition was really good, and I’m excited to see them go out on Thursday evening and put that competition to work.”

The team’s secondary, however, retains veteran backs Gunner Olszewski and John Vogeler. As a unit, the “Gang Green” finished third in the country with six defensive touchdowns and seventh with 20 interceptions.

“Last year to this year, we’ll be just as good, if not better,” Vogeler said. “We’ve got a couple younger guys stepping up into some new roles, but we have a lot of veterans in the backfield that are going to lead the way.”

“It’s been an evolution,” Bolte said of preseason camp. “I think the offense was ahead early, the defense caught up, and then now I think we’re there. We’ve got to go play the game. It’s about time.”

BSU’s first opponent, Northern State, was picked to finish eighth in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference this season after going 6-5 in 2017. NSIC coaches predicted the Beavers would finish fifth following last season’s 8-3 campaign.

The Wolves have a new offensive coordinator and will start a new quarterback under center in Hunter Troutman. All-NSIC linebacker Noah McPherson anchors a defensive unit that ranked 10th in the league in points allowed.

Of course, all bets are off when programs are taking the field for the first time.

“I think I have a little bit of an idea what they’re going to do, but we don’t know for sure,” Bolte said. “... But they’re in the same situation, we’ve got two new coordinators (Bisch on defense, and Karson Pike on offense). We’ll have to play it a little that first quarter. I think it’ll be more of a chess match to see what everybody’s doing, and then let the bullets fly after that.”

If you go

What: BSU vs. Northern State

When: 6 p.m. tonight

Where: Chet Anderson Stadium

TV: KBSU Ch. 17

Radio: Beaver Radio Network/92.1 FM

Austin Monteith

Austin Monteith is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He is an Illinois native and a Butler University graduate. Follow him on Twitter @amonteith92.

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