By Ben Becker
Photography by Kim J Photography
When I walked into the Barnesville High School gymnasium, the boys basketball team was hosting the Perham Yellowjackets. It felt like an away game, for Barnesville. I made an obvious statement in the form of a partial question to a fellow spectator, a Perham fan, “Man, you folks sure travel well.” During that conversation I found out that iconic coach Dave Cresap was going for his 500th career win as a head coach.
The milestone achievement was not the only thing worth the price of admission, Perham can ball. The young and talented Yellowjacket team is a must watch on the local scene with high hopes for the immediate future. One of the main reasons for the success and hype of the Perham team is sophomore guard Jenson Beachy. Jenson is a coach’s dream. Talking to Jenson’s coaches and family it was so awesomely redundant to hear the same mutual appreciation for his talent on the basketball court and football field, as well as just how genuinely good a kid he is. And then there is his work ethic. Jenson possesses a cool and calm demeanor, but inside, is a loud competitive spirit, and to be honest, I would not want to guard him.
This past fall Jenson started at quarterback for the Perham football team as a sophomore. The team finished 6-4 and lost a gritty battle with perennial powerhouse DGF in the section semi-final round. The team’s first round win was the first playoff game Perham had won in years. The team hopes to build on that momentum and carry it into the 2017 season. Jenson is a dual threat-option quarterback with above-average versatility. He threw for 1,065 yards with a completion percentage of 54.6% and six touchdowns. Oh, and he also ran the ball 122 times for 438 yards and five touchdowns.
Also worth mentioning is that he only had two turnovers all year, two interceptions, zero fumbles. Efficient, and effective, he amazingly elevated his game to the next level in the postseason. Jenson’s QB rating jumped from a ‘modest’ 86.9 in the regular season to an astounding 122.8 in the postseason. Watching film, two things jumped out at me. First, he has incredible pocket presence, moves comfortably within the pocket, can scramble and still keep his eyes downfield looking for an open receiver. The arm is a close second. Not only is Jenson incredibly accurate, but he can throw from multiple angles too, which I correctly guessed came from a baseball background because, of course, what can’t this kid do? Coach Kevin Knutson had to remind me he is a sophomore and as he improves his ability to read defenses with experience, his upside is tremendous. I do not envy defensive coordinators in the Heart O’ Lakes Conference.
I asked Jenson what his most special memory was as an athlete and without hesitation he said it was when he received his varsity basketball jersey as an 8th grader and eventually went on to start. “I was the first 8th grader to start for Coach Cresap ever at Perham in his 22 years and that really meant a lot to me.” Jenson said. And not that a coach who just racked up win number 500 needs to be proven right by anybody, Jenson did it immediately for him anyway. His 8th grade year he averaged 11.96 points per game (ppg). His freshman year he averaged 12 ppg, 3 rebounds (reb), 1.7 assists (ast) on his way to an All-Conference Honorable Mention campaign.
Five games into his current sophomore season he is averaging 18.8 ppg, 1.6 reb, 3.4 ast, 1.8 steals, while also averaging a dainty 1.8 turnovers a game. Jenson is shooting 52.3% from the floor, and 42.8% from 3-point range. A casual observation of the game I watched, on his shots made, I counted zero rims touched. And do not let him get hot. In a December 2nd game against Roseau, Jenson had a career high 31 points, catching fire with 8 of 9 shooting from 3-point range.
His defense might even be better than his offense. The game against Barnesville the guy(s) Jenson was guarding: one shot. His on ball defense is above-average, relentless, and important to him. I asked him if he knew how many points he gave up that night and Jenson said “No, but, that’s just what I do. I work hard for my teammates.” The highlight of the night for me really though was when Coach Cresap was directing orders to his point guard, the point guard promptly looked over at Coach and said “Yeah, Jens just said that.” I asked Jenson about that moment after the game and he very confidently explained his role, “Coach has been open with the team basically giving me permission to lead. I have a high basketball IQ, and I want to get better for my teammates, but most importantly I just want us to get better as a team. We want to win state. That’s our goal. And we have the talent to do it, it just takes work.” I believe him; I could still sense the saltiness from the team’s only loss this year to Breckenridge back on December 9th. Jenson said, “Everything is an opportunity to get better, and we have to be accountable. It will help us down the road.” They followed that loss with a resounding 84-37 win over Frazee.
Jenson is not surprisingly a three-sport athlete, has gone out for track the last few years, but is leaning towards taking the opportunity to focus on football and basketball. Jenson said “The best thing might be to go all-in with my AAU [basketball] team and hopefully mix in some individual camps or training.” Some kids in high school might just “take the spring off”, or “take a break from sports”. Not Jenson.
As both Coach Knutson and Coach Cresap reiterated what I already knew from speaking to Jenson was that “this kid is special”. Coach Knutson commended the emotional lifts he brings to practice every day, “He brings a unique sense of humor to the squad and knows how to bring the fun out when at times it doesn’t seem very fun.” Coach Cresap summarized Jenson pretty well, “He is just one of those kids who will do whatever it takes to make himself a great player. He spends countless hours outside of practice in the gym, mornings, weekends, whenever he can.” Jenson addresses his weaknesses and works on them to stay above the rest of the competition, including working with one of his role models Jordan Riewer. Riewer was a Staples High School graduate who played at MSU-Moorhead before having a nice professional career in Europe. They worked on footwork in the offseason which Jenson said has helped out a lot.
It is not hard to see where this success for Jenson comes from. He works hard, and he plays hard. There is no universal measurement of an athlete but I have my own criteria: First: What kind of a leader? Motivator? Work ethic? Seems logical, right? Second: How competitive are you actually? I’ve been around sports my whole life, some care more than others. And lastly, Talent.
Not only does Jenson possess all three criteria, he has them all at very high levels. Coach Cresap told me on a game day he is at the gym before school, shooting; and if he shoots poorly, “He’ll be right back there the next morning.” Jenson described himself as ‘intrinsically motivated’ which not only speaks highly of his vernacular, but also sheds some light on his intense drive that is completely unforced. Jenson comes from a family of athletes. His sister, Josie Beachy, plays on the Perham girls basketball team, and was also the number one singles player on the tennis team. Eli Beachy, an older brother, hopes to break Concordia’s pole vaulting record this year.
The biggest takeaway from speaking to the Beachy family was the mutual expectation of greatness. Nothing comes across as cocky or arrogant, just confidence, and motivation. Any athlete is capable of becoming a victim of complacency. I just don’t see that happening to Jenson Beachy. This is a mature, humble, smart and polite kid, who is also a great leader and teammate and…also just a sophomore.
As a fan we all want to see great athletes do great things, but what makes sports great are the athletes that do great things, the right things, all the time, especially when nobody is watching. “I want to play for as long as I can at a very high level, which is my only goal.” Jenson said. I won’t be the first to say this and I won’t be the last but the future looks pretty good for the Perham Yellowjackets. And it looks pretty great for Jenson Beachy. SV