BEMIDJI -- A century ago, the Pioneer put it lightly.
“It was little short of a crime, what the Bemidji high school football team did to the Coleraine high school team.”
Following week five of the 1919 season, the headline heralded, “Local High School Slaughters Visitors in District Title Game,” but even that didn’t do justice to what BHS had just done to Coleraine.
Today’s Lumberjacks took their best guess at the largest win in program history: Linebacker Ryan Yang said 70-12. Cornerback Isaiah Biehn went with 73-6. And wide receiver Colten Jensen guessed 75-0 before revising his answer to 100-0.
But in a game the Pioneer previewed as “just about one of the hardest games in the conference,” Bemidji won 119-0. Yes, that’s one hundred and nineteen to zero.
Yang reacted with a flinch. “Geez. 119-0?” Biehn let out an “Oh my gosh” before admitting, “I was not expecting that.” And Jensen could only grin.
“Coleraine was clearly outclassed,” the Pioneer game story explained. “The heavy local team just naturally played circles around the visitors.”
The only player named in the article was kicker Russell Brooks. He went 17-for-17 on extra points.
Even 36,503 days later, the Oct. 18, 1919, win still stands as the program’s most lopsided victory. It bested a 14-day-old record, as BHS also won a week-three matchup 116-0 over Park Rapids. And thanks to a 41-0 win over Blackduck sprinkled in between, the J.W. Smith-led Lumberjacks outscored opponents 276-0 over a three-week span -- undoubtedly one of the most dominant runs in Minnesota history.
Bemidji admitted it would take a perfect storm to hit the century mark in a game today.
“We need pick-sixes, fumbles, special teams touchdowns, 100-yard runs,” Biehn said. “Every play has to be a touchdown.”
“It’d probably take a lot of discipline and focus,” Jensen added. “And playing, probably, a bad team or something.”
That 1919 BHS squad finished 5-1-1, tying Montevideo 0-0 in a de facto “title game” that matched the state’s selected northern and southern champions prior to the advent of the Minnesota State High School League. Its only loss came as a 12-0 defeat against the alumni to open the season.
Despite zero triple-digit wins to show for it, this year’s band of Jacks finds itself with similar aspirations within reach. Bemidji is unblemished with a 4-0 start to the season. They’ve surged to the top tier of the Class 5A rankings and have forged a clear path back toward a section championship.
Still, BHS head coach Troy Hendricks believes his team hasn’t reached its ceiling.
“We just haven’t put four quarters of football together yet,” he said. “We have to play better than we have, in my mind, the last four weeks. Each week we’re trying to get better.”
To protect their unbeaten record, the Jacks will need their best when matched up against a formidable St. Cloud Tech team that’s started 3-1.
“If we can get the momentum and keep it, we’re sitting great,” Hendricks said. “If we lose the momentum against a team this talented, it’s going to be difficult. But the kids are up for the challenge, and they’re excited to play in front of their home fans.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27, at Chet Anderson Stadium. It also doubles as homecoming, giving Bemidji just a little bit extra to fight for.
“Coming out and playing hard right away, taking that momentum, will be a big factor in that game,” Yang said. “Everybody loves winning homecoming. Nobody wants to lose, so it’s a big a motivation.”