Two years ago, the Brainerd Warriors traveled to Bemidji and were defeated 15-13 by a youthful Lumberjacks team.
Wide receiver Carey Woods and quarterback Mitchell Hendricks were sophomore starters on that Bemidji team. Two years later, they headline a Lumberjacks’ team that will visit Adamson Field to play the Brainerd Warriors Friday night.
Woods and Hendricks are now in their third season as starters. Many of their classmates are in their second year of starting. In the last two years, Bemidji is 15-8 and has won two section championships.
This year, the Lumberjacks are 3-0 and ranked fifth in Class 4A. Bemidji has drilled Moorhead 40-13, Fergus Falls 42-13 and St. Cloud Apollo 58-14.
“It’s a bunch of athletic kids who play a lot of sports,” Bemidji coach Troy Hendricks said. “They’ve played together a number of times in a number of situations. I trust their competitive edge. They know how to compete.
“They expect success. They went to state in baseball, came close in hockey and basketball, and went to state in wrestling. They experienced some success in football and other sports. I think those experiences carry over and should help these kids as seniors hopefully be as successful or more successful this year.
“Their work ethic is good. They’re busy kids, trying to do many different things. At the same time I like the competitiveness they have and the way they bring it week in and week out.”
According to www.mnfootballhub.com, Woods is the state’s receiving yards leader (546) and the receiving touchdowns leader (7). He has caught 21 passes and is averaging 26.0 yards per grab.
The site shows Mitchell Hendricks second in passing yards (777), second in quarterback rating (146.6) and 10th in passing touchdowns (8). He has completed 38 of 52 throws (.731) with just one interception.
In addition, Mitchell Hendricks is Bemidji’s rushing leader (143 yards) and Woods is second (103).
“Bemidji is a very good football team with balance everywhere,” Brainerd coach Ron Stolski said. “They have an excellent defense, they’re very fast. They have good balance in their offensive game.
“They have very good experience and it shows up. I think that’s the real key. A lot of their kids have played for a long time. This is a team they’ve been looking to for a long time.
“We will really have to play well to beat this veteran team. I don’t think there’s any question about it.”
The Warriors are looking to rebound from an 8-3 loss at Sartell. Brainerd, ranked ninth in Class 5A at the time, gained 61 more yards than the Sabres and made four more first downs. But seven penalties, two apiece on two different drives, prevented the Warriors from kicking more than a field goal.
Brainerd’s defense gave up a score on the opening possession, but only 85 yards after the first quarter.
“(The loss) was disappointing, but I thought our effort was good,” Stolski said. “The sport is about making the plays when they need to be made. Penalties were really a bother to us, particularly since we hadn’t been penalized much in the previous games. We didn’t know how to respond to (the penalties).
“I thought we made good adjustments to Sartell’s defensive plan, and Sartell had a very good one. We certainly had enough first downs and yardage to perhaps get in and score.”
Bemidji expects the Warriors to be anxious to rebound from its first defeat.
“Whenever we play Brainerd we know they’re going to be undefeated or have one loss,” Troy Hendricks said. “They’re well-coached, have a lot of talent, and are extremely disciplined.
“I don’t know how many times they’ve lost in Brainerd, but it cant be many the last 4-5 years. It’s an extremely tough task, and hopefully we’re up to the challenge. We’re looking forward to coming in there and giving them a physical, competitive game on Friday.”