KICKOFF: 1 p.m. Saturday
SITE: Husky Stadium
SERIES: SCSU leads 35-17-3
LAST WEEK: Bemidji State lost 30-0 to UMD; SCSU lost 28-27 to Northern State
RADIO: KNSI 1450-AM or 103.3 FM
TV: UTVS (Charter Channel 21)
Getting a high ankle sprain is the worst thing you can do to that part of your body outside of breaking it.
The recovery process can take up to 6-8 weeks. St. Cloud State junior wide receiver Damon Treat suffered a high ankle sprain on his right ankle against Minnesota-Duluth on Sept. 29 and hasn’t been the same since.
“I was fighting for extra yards and somebody came and swiped by me at the end of it,” the 5-foot-7, 160-pound Treat said. “There was enough pain for me not to come back in the game. It was a big game and I really wanted to come back.”
Treat missed two games with the injury, but returned for the Northern State game last Saturday. He finished with two catches for 14 yards in the game, but didn’t look like his normal explosive self. He has 17 catches for 174 yards on the season.
“It still hurts when I’m running on it. It’s been doing better and better. I’ve been getting treatments every day,” Treat said. “It’s started to feel better this week. Against Northern State, every time I got tackled there was a sharp pain for a minute. Then, I’d walk around for a little bit and it went away.”
Missing two games wasn’t easy for Treat.
“It always sucks sitting on the sidelines,” he said. “I love playing football. I always want to go out there and give it 100 percent.”
The Huskies are host to Bemidji State for their home finale at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Beavers beat the Huskies 19-14 last year in a game that might have cost the Huskies a first-round bye in the Division II playoffs.
St. Cloud State ended up hosting Wayne State (Mich.) in the first round. The Huskies lost to the Wildcats in that first-round game.
SCSU head coach Scott Underwood said last year’s loss to Bemidji and last Saturday’s loss at Northern State are the two worst of his coaching career.
“We talked about that with our kids,” Underwood said. “I felt like we had opportunities to win both of those games and we didn’t play very well in both outings. We squandered our opportunities.
“Bemidji is a big, physical team. They do a good job and they’re very well-coached. They play hard. We have to be up for the challenge. Part of that is getting our kids ready to go. I’m sure they’re not 100 percent healthy, just like we are.”
SCSU players know that they have to be ready to face a fired-up Bemidji team.
“Coach Underwood told us the BSU was as significant as the Northern loss,” Treat said. “It’s a big motivator for us to play well. I know I dropped a sure TD pass in the game last year. That will be running through my head. The feeling of losing that game wasn’t a good one.
“We have to finish the season out strong and see how it plays out.”
SCSU quarterback Phillip Klaphake said losing the game to Bemidji last year was tough to swallow.
“We could’ve taken the outright conference championship if we had won that one,” Klaphake said. “That one hurt. I felt bad for our senior class who left a lot out on the field for us. Bemidji is a great team and we didn’t perform well. It’s a great game every time we play them. They’re always up for us. We’ll be up this year and there is some revenge factor to it.”
A LOOK AT THE BEAVERS
Bemidji State saw a three-game winning streak end with a 30-0 loss at Minnesota-Duluth last Saturday.
The Beavers’ defense is strong again this season, ranking No. 2 in the NSIC (giving up 317.6 yards per game). St. Cloud State is 3rd in the league in total defense (329 yards a game).
Bemidji is the third-best team in stopping the run (116.5 yards a game) and is fourth against the pass (201 yards a game).
“Our focal point is always stopping the run,” Bemidji State head coach Jeff Tesch said. “If we stop the run, we can make the other team one-dimensional.”
Bemidji’s leading rusher, senior Dustin Kroeplin, will most likely miss Saturday’s game after he suffered a knee injury against Duluth. Tight end Brian Leonhardt is questionable with a toe, ankle and thumb injuries.
Kroeplin has 97 carries for 425 yards and three TDs this season.
“That’s a four-year player for us right there,” Tesch said of Kroeplin. “He got hurt on the second play of the game against Duluth. That made a big difference for us. We like to control the clock with a power running game. We lost that with him out.”
The Beavers are led by senior quarterback Lance Rongstad, who has thrown for 1,461 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. He’s second on the team in rushing with 265 yards and three TDs.
“Rongstad’s a lot like Phil Klaphake,” Tesch said. “He makes plays with his feet. He’s throwing the ball better this year. He’s made more plays throwing the ball deep. He’s always been a good athlete.”
Tesch was surprised St. Cloud State lost last weekend on the road.
“They’re a good-looking team as always,” Tesch said. “They are very productive offensively and Klaphake is as talented as anybody in our league. He puts up big points and makes big plays. It’s impressive that Northern was able to hold them down the way they did. Their defense has gotten stronger and stronger as the year has gone along. I’m still surprised by what happened at Northern to them.”
* The Huskies are still in play for the Mineral Water Bowl, the annual game which is played between the top teams from the NSIC and MIAA who didn’t qualify for the Division II playoffs. But to play in that game, the Huskies will most likely need some help with the University of Sioux Falls (7-1) or Winona State (6-2) losing.
Both of those teams were ranked in the Super Region 3 poll this week.
“I have no idea about the Mineral Water Bowl. I know it’s a thing,” Klaphake said. “Our biggest goal is to try and win the North Division, or be a co-division champion. If that leads to the Mineral Water Bowl, we’ll take it, I guess. We’d love to go 3-0 to end the season. It starts with Bemidji.”
Underwood said it would be difficult for his team to qualify for the game over Sioux Falls or Winona State.
“It’s hard just based on where the teams are at. It’s the highest remaining team that doesn’t go to the playoffs. I guess we’ll find out in a few weeks,” he said.
* SCSU co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Doug Patterson said redshirt freshman right tackle Karl Eichinger is going to be a good player in the future. Eichinger got his first career start at Northern State last week in place of Mitch Wiedeman, who missed the game with a bulging disc problem in his back. Wiedeman is questionable for Saturday’s game.
“Karl’s going to be a good player for us,” Patterson said. “He played like a freshman against Northern. He gave up some bad sacks. It is what it is. It was his first game. He’s going to be good, though. He’s physically what we want at that position. He’ll be our left tackle next year and replace Andrew Anderson. I feel pretty good about that. It was awesome experience for him. He just has to get through those growing pains like everybody else does.”
Patterson is also high on Rafael Saez, who will start at left guard for Matt Schmiesing, who is done for the year with a knee injury.
“We thought Raffy would be a starting guard for us after spring ball,” Patterson said. “But he had hip labrum surgery and that set him back during fall camp. He didn’t start practicing until the third or fourth week of the season. He’s still recovering from that. I think he’s going to be a good player for us. We’ll see Saturday. He’s headed in the right direction.”
* St. Cloud State will have 11 seniors playing in their final home game Saturday. Underwood is going to try and play them all as much as possible.
“Those guys are going to play a lot. It’s their last game at Husky Stadium. It’s a tough day for them. We have some injuries with those 11. Because of that some younger kids will see some time,” Underwood said.
* Underwood on looking back on last week’s Hail Mary win for Northern State: “There are a lot of things we’d do differently. Did we learn from it? Yes. There are some things we could’ve done better as players and coaches. Of course you always look back on something like that and think you should’ve done something differently.”