BEMIDJI -- To open its section-championship encore, the Bemidji High School football team has gone back to the basics.
“Each and every year, I think our approach as a coaching staff is, ‘Let’s start at square one and pay attention to detail,’” BHS head coach Troy Hendricks said. “Really, that’s it. Start with the basics and let’s work our way through our systems: offense, defense and special teams.”
The Lumberjacks, the defending Section 8-5A champions, are two days into the new season following Tuesday’s practice. For the first few days of camp, Bemidji has focused on finding a groove with the regular season just over two weeks out.
“(It’s a) really high-energy atmosphere,” senior captain Chase Smith said. “We’re just trying to get the feel of things, see how the younger groups are doing and give them some technique and tips. They’re doing really well.”
As with the start of any campaign, though, there’s work to be done.
“It’s been two great practices,” Hendricks said. “But we have just begun. We’ll face adversity in some way, shape or form throughout the next three weeks, so let’s maintain our positive attitude. I think it’s gone really well.”
BHS has a few holes to fill, starting under center. Quarterback Jacob Beberg has graduated, as have two of his favorite targets in wide receivers Ryan Bieberdorf and Kade Peterson.
Nevertheless, Bemidji believes it has the means to be a contender again this season.
“Brett (Tharaldson), as a junior quarterback, has definitely taken a leadership role. Both in the way he carried himself throughout the offseason and the way he’s performed and communicated to his teammates,” Hendricks said. “I definitely feel comfortable with him taking over for Jacob Beberg. Defensively, we have a plethora of kids (who) know what it takes and will step into leadership roles. We have (nose guard) Chase Smith, we’ve got (outside linebacker) Ryan Yang, we’ve got (inside linebacker) Justin Nelson who are all captains on the defensive side of the ball.”
The Jacks finished 2018 with a 10-2 record. They hit double-digit wins by defeating Cambridge-Isanti 51-25 in the state opener before a 33-21 loss to St. Thomas Academy in the semifinals.
But Smith said he won’t be satisfied with last season’s success.
“I feel like we’re going to go further than that this year,” he said. “Our goals are bigger and better. I feel like we’re going to make it to (U.S. Bank Stadium) and then try to win it this year.”
Thanks to a 25-22 victory over Brainerd in last year’s Section 8-5A final, BHS returns with a crown to defend. But an added target on its back won’t change anything for Bemidji.
“All we can do is control ourselves,” Hendricks said. “We’ve been in this position before. The boys aren’t concerned about it at all, (us coaches) are not concerned about it at all. We know, if we come in to each and every game and punch them in the mouth, all the ideas and thoughts of what you were going to do to the Jacks becomes null and void.”
The regular season begins at 7 p.m. on Aug. 29 at Andover. Bemidji’s first time at Chet Anderson Stadium will be 7 p.m. on Sept. 6 against Brainerd.