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FOOTBALL: Lumberjacks motivated, rejuvenated heading into 2022 season

“It's always a great day to come out here and be on the football field and get a chance to see what this 2022 season looks like and this football team looks like,” head coach Bryan Stoffel said.

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The Lumberjacks run toward the center of the field for a talk with head coach Bryan Stoffel after practice on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, at BHS.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI – Bryan Stoffel was in a great mood on Monday.

The Bemidji High School football head coach supervised the first official practice of the year on the BHS fields, running players through drills and installing the first plays of the new season. He looked pretty pleased to be out there.

“It's always a great day to come out here and be on the football field and get a chance to see what this 2022 season looks like and this football team looks like,” Stoffel said.

So how’d they look? Not too shabby. The Lumberjacks have a tall task ahead of them, needing to replace 10 offensive starters and numerous leaders on defense. But on the first day of fall camp, Stoffel liked what he saw.

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Bemidji junior Peyton Neadeau hands the ball off during a drill at practice on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, at BHS.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“We have a lot of inexperience, and we have to replace a lot of starters from last year,” Stoffel said. “So it was really nice to see how it all came together a little bit. It's the first time we've had everybody here at once, I feel. We have some athletes. I like the tempo that was shown on day one. We just have to continue to do that.”

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That tempo was to the coaching staff’s liking, but it tired out the players. That’s part of getting into football shape, of course, something senior Ethan Biehn – the only returning offensive starter – knows well.

“I'm tired as I’ll ever be right now,” Biehn said. “Over these two weeks, I need to gain it back, (so) here we go. But being a slot and a cornerback and running with all these guys, it's just going to get me in the best condition possible. But it feels awesome to be back on the field.”

Biehn and the rest of the Jacks have a Section 8-5A championship in mind after coming so close during their heartbreaking section title game loss against Alexandria in 2021. The fire from that defeat has smoldered for nearly a year, and now, BHS can start to channel it toward the upcoming campaign.

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Bemidji senior Ethan Biehn runs through a drill during practice on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, at BHS.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“It’s a big motivator,” Biehn said of a potential section crown. “It's a chip on our shoulder that we're definitely going to play for this year. We have the potential and the skills to get that (done).”

Bemidji will pursue this season’s section championship with a new starting quarterback under center. Jack Larson departs after commanding the offense for the Lumberjacks last year. His likely replacement? Junior Peyton Neadeau, who saw some time at the helm in 2021 and has seized the inside track for the starting job this season.

“Peyton is a guy that got reps last year at times,” Stoffel said. “We were kind of grooming him for that spot (to take over) as a junior. So it's his job to step up and take that position, which he is doing, and we're really excited to see what he can do.”

Neadeau should be able to rely on Biehn as a security blanket while he adjusts to the new role. Stoffel, who also takes charge of the offense, plans to utilize his returning Swiss Army knife as much as possible.

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The Lumberjacks run through a drill during practice on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, at BHS.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“Ethan is going to be used in every which way we can,” Stoffel said. “I'd be stupid not to get the ball in his hands as much as possible. That's the thing that we'll be doing, trying to get him the ball on the edges and in space, because he's pretty dynamic when he has it.”

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Biehn gave Neadeau a vote of confidence as the one who will be delivering him the ball, praising his growth over the offseason.

“Peyton looks amazing,” Biehn said. “He's smooth, he's quick, he's got all the skills that he needs. He's got the experience, he's seen the varsity football field. And now he just has a team to look after him, and he looks after us. I think we just have great chemistry.”

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Head coach Bryan Stoffel talks with the Lumberjacks after practice on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, at BHS.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

The Jacks commence their season at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 1, with a road contest against Rogers, which defeated them 24-0 in last year’s season opener at Chet Anderson Stadium. The Royals also reached the Class 5A state semifinals in 2021.

It won’t be an easy task to kick off the 2022 slate, but BHS hopes its auspicious beginning to practice bodes well for a strong opening performance.

“I looked back on our film against Rogers last year and how we were not prepared, offensively at least, for that game and the mistakes that we made,” Stoffel said. “And that comes back and reflects on me, so we're going to make sure that we get our kids prepared and they're ready to go for Week 1.”

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Bemidji sophomore Kobe Brown looks to pass the ball during practice on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, at BHS.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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The Lumberjacks run through a drill during practice on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, at BHS.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Related Topics: BEMIDJI LUMBERJACKSFOOTBALL
Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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