By Brityn Kiser
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Well it’s that time of year again folks. With the 2015 Indoor Football League (IFL) season recently opening for our very own professional IFL team, the Bemidji Axemen, it’s time to get on over to the Sanford Center and indulge in some snacks and beverages while enjoying a good game of football.
After finishing 5-9 in their rookie season last year, the Axemen have made some adjustments to the coaching staff and roster in hopes of growth and to improve from last season. One of the most significant changes the team has made was the promotion of Dixie Wooten from defensive coordinator to head coach. With the new line of coaches and players, the Axemen have high expectations for the season.
This season’s roster consists of some important veterans returning from last season, including Ryan Balentine, Jory Johnson, Josh Jarboe, Demario Pippen, Adam Lucas, Rony Nelson, and Zach Pulkinen.
The Axemen welcome back Zach Pulkinen, their kicker from last season and former Bemidji State Beaver, who came aboard in the last nine games of the 2014 season. Pulkinen finished last season with 10 field goals and 30 extra points. After a year of experience under his belt, we wish the best of luck to our fellow Beaver this IFL season.
But the list of our Bemidji State talent doesn’t end there, as former Beaver Brent Kondziolka will be taking the field on the defensive line and at linebacker. Kondziolka was a key component in special teams for BSU.
Larry Miller Jr. also joins the Axemen for his rookie season as a defensive back. Miller was a three year starter for BSU and captain of the 2013 Beavers.
Former Beaver William Slade will be at the outside linebacker position, along with Avery Walker as a running back. Walker rushed for 1,314 yards in his senior season as a Beaver, which led the team and was third in the conference.
After finishing fourth in the league in total yards and first in passing yards last season, along with welcoming a mix of skilled and highly improved players, the Axemen are optimistic of their offensive strength this season. Especially with the return of the team’s wide receiver, Ryan Balentine as he led the team and finished second in the league in receiving yards last year.
The Axemen are led defensively by linebacker Jory Johnson, who finished the season with 72 tackles, five sacks, and three interceptions but the team hopes to make great progress this year in the defensive area, as they allowed opponents to score an average of 45 points per game last season.
The team started their second season off strong as they dominated the Minnesota Sting 74-7 in their exhibition game on Sunday, February 8th at the Sanford Center.
The Axemen took on reigning champs, Sioux Falls Storm for their first official game of the IFL season on Saturday, February 28th at at the Sanford Center. There will be plenty of opportunities to go out and catch the action, as the Axemen play seven home games over the course of the the season. For the schedule or more information, check out www.bemidjiaxemen.com.