BEMIDJI -- When the Bemidji High School football team breaks the pre-snap huddle, Will Falldorf hangs in the backfield. But by the end of the play, he’s usually ahead of most everyone on the field.
“I’ve got five guys up front working really hard, so I just try to make (it count) for them and work as hard as I can to hit the hole,” the junior running back said. “Being a rough runner up the A-gap, you’ve got to be able to hit someone and have the breakaway speed. It’s kind of a 2-in-1 thing.”
Falldorf has shined as the Lumberjacks’ leading rusher through two games this season. But his success is rooted in the work he poured in before training camp began.
“Will wants to be the best football player he can be. He’s shown that through his offseason commitment,” BHS head coach Troy Hendricks said. “If you’re extremely talented and you don't do anything about it and don’t work to improve, competition is going to catch up to you. For Will, he continually tries to get better and better through his commitment to the weight room, to his commitment to being faster. It’s been fun to watch him.”
Bemidji has leaned on Falldorf to carry much of the offense. He’s racked up six touchdowns -- including scores from 64 and 72 yards out -- and tallied 212 rushing yards in last week’s rivalry win over Brainerd alone.
“It’s the best feeling in the world, man,” Falldorf said of breaking loose for a big run. “You want to expect that on every single play, but when you see it happen, you just hit the jets and know you’re gone. You soak it all in. It’s exciting.”
Falldorf has given the Lumberjack faithful plenty to be excited about, too. In 2018, Falldorf played second fiddle to senior rusher Caleb Grant. Falldorf showed flashes of potential, something that’s surfaced tenfold this season.
“When he got in (last year), he made the most of it, had some success. But he strictly was next man up, waiting for his opportunity when it came,” Hendricks said. “I’ve seen him want to be the running back, the guy we’re running between the tackles. … His desire to be our No. 1 running back is quite evident in his work ethic.”
BHS will need Falldorf’s best again this week for another stout test in Alexandria. The Cardinals come in unbeaten after lopsided wins over Buffalo (56-20) and Moorhead (35-13), good for Class 5A’s No. 4 ranking in the AP poll. Paired with Bemidij’s impressive start to the year and No. 6 ranking, the two have a headlining showdown set for 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, in Alex.
“They know our systems, we know their systems, so we just need to be efficient,” Hendricks said. “There’s three phases of the game. If we can win two out of three, we’re sitting in a good situation.”
From under center, Matthew Carlsen conducts a Cardinal offense that’s among the most explosive in Class 5A at 45.5 points per game. The senior quarterback has completed 38 of 55 passes for 509 yards and five touchdowns this season, while also adding 111 yards and a score on the ground.
Carlsen’s favorite target has been sophomore wideout Kristen Hoskins, who’s put up 361 yards and four touchdowns on 24 catches. Junior Nolan Morical has spearheaded the ground attack, going for 266 yards on 37 attempts (7.2 average) and five touchdowns himself.
“They’ve have some key players that we have to eliminate the big play on,” Hendricks said. “If we can eliminate big plays defensively, I think we’ll be OK.”
Despite the challenge before them, Falldorf and Bemidji are prepared for the section showdown.
“We’re ready,” Falldorf said. “I think (a win) would make a big statement. Especially coming out there against a team like Alexandria, a very good football team, definitely let the section know that we’re No. 1.”