If anyone bleeds Bismarck Demon maroon and white, it's linebacker Reed Hendrickson.
When he moved from New Rockford to Bismarck as a seventh-grader, he began playing football at Wachter Middle School. Since then, almost every season has had an injury attached - an array of maladies from undiagnosed bone fractures to frequent stingers to torn tendons and ligaments.
Through it all, Hendrickson, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior, has persevered, finally winning a starting berth in the middle of last season.
As a senior, Hendrickson didn't want to miss a minute. He wanted to absorb every single second of his final season of BHS football.
"I love football. ... I can't get enough of it," he said. "... On the field and off the field, everything is football. I don't want to be that kid who gave up just because he had injuries."
"It isn't just football, it's Demon football, he added. "I just can't get enough of BHS football. ... I can't imagine not being part of the team."
His presence was certainly apparent in last week's 54-13 season-opening victory over West Fargo. Hendrickson made his mark in a brilliant defensive showing by the Demons. BHS racked up three interceptions, recovered two fumbles, sacked the Packer quarterback five times and held West Fargo to 104 yards total offense.
Hendrickson, playing outside linebacker, returned a Packer fumble 25 yards for a score in the second period to put Bismarck up 35-13.
On that play, Hendrickson suffered an injury as a would-be West Fargo tackler grabbed his foot. He stayed in the game until third quarter when he tweaked his foot on a kickoff. The next morning he could barely stand.
X-rays revealed damage to his left heel and ankle and an old bone fracture on the outside of his left foot, slightly torn tendons and stretched ligaments.
That puts Hendrickson out of Friday's game at Fargo Davies for sure and leaves his status for the ensuing game against Devils Lake doubtful.
Hendrickson says he can't imagine sitting out two whole games of his senior season.
"I personally want to get back for the Devils Lake game," Hendrickson insisted.
The coaching staff is considerably more cautious. Their timetable is to have Hendrickson ready to go for the regional opener against Century on Sept. 16.
"I'm already feeling better," Hendrickson said Wednesday. "It's the heel that's the most tender."
BHS coach Mark Gibson said he instinctively wants Hendrickson on the field for every defensive down. But he also realizes that it's more important to be cautious in September in order to have the big senior on the field come playoff time.
"Reed has to be one of our leaders. ... He did a nice job down the stretch last year, and now we're asking him to take his game to a new level," Gibson said. "We're definitely going to miss him."
Gibson said the Demon defensive unit has plenty of speed and much more experience than the offense. He said the defense made the most of those advantages against West Fargo.
"There were a lot of maroon jerseys flying around," Gibson noted. "There was a lot of gang tackling going on Friday night. You didn't see one guy making tackles, you saw a lot of guys flying in there."
Hendrickson said that type of aggressiveness is exactly why he likes defense.
"I'm not a big fan of offense. I like defense a lot more," he said. "I just have that defensive mentality. I've got a chip on my shoulder all the time. On every play I want to find someone and knock the daylights out of them."
When he's played offense, Hendrickson said he felt too constrained. "I like having more freedom on defense. ... It's a lot more about instinct and how you react, and I like that."
As a fan, Hendrickson said he thought linebackers were cool, whether he was watching high school, college or pro games. His chance came in the eighth grade.
"I tried it in the eighth grade and it just clicked," he said. "It was like I was at home. I didn't have to think about anything. It was just there."
Hendrickson said the defensive unit was well aware that it was expected to carry the load against West Fargo until the offensive unit got going. So when the Packers uncorked a 75-yard scoring pass in their second possession it didn't sit too well with the BHS seniors.
"It's the history of BHS. We take a lot of pride in our defense," Hendrickson said. "... That made us mad and frustrated. It makes you angry to let that big a play go. It gave us that added motivation to focus, relax and do our assignments."
Once the defense got in a groove it became downright nasty, blanking West Fargo on 11 straight possessions. The Packer offense didn't cross midfield in after the 75-yard touchdown pass. West Fargo's second score was on a kickoff return.
Meanwhile, the Demons threw quarterbacks Tucker Bucholz and Nick Roehrich for 34 yards in losses and tossed running backs for minus yardage twice.
"When you get a couple of sacks and big run stops it gives everyone the confidence that we can do that on every play," Hendrickson said.
Now the goal is to move ahead. Hendrickson said last week's score is irrelevant. It's just a game in the win column.
"Our main concern is not getting ahead of ourselves," he said. "We can take that (West Fargo game) to build the confidence of the whole team. ... When we really get clicking and running on all cylinders we'll see just how good this football team can be.
"We're not even thinking about the state championship game. ... We want to improve one game at a time."