One of the Brainerd Warriors’ objectives is to win the fourth quarter.
Friday night, the Warriors lit up the scoreboard at Adamson Field with 21 fourth-quarter points, while limiting the St. Cloud Tech Tigers to seven in that span, and emerged with a nerve-wracking 42-28 Central Lakes Conference win.
The contest was tied three times and the lead changed hands three times, before Brainerd scored 14 unanswered points for the win.
“We’re still young, we’re still growing, but one of the things that we’ve been pretty good at for quite a long time is those fourth-quarter comebacks,” Warriors coach Ron Stolski said. “I reminded the kids of that when we were in the huddle down there. I said, ‘Hey, boys, you haven’t been here before but your spirits have been here before, so I’m proud of that.”
With the score tied 28-28 the Warriors’ defense came through with two critical turnovers.
On first down at the Tech 30, Brainerd linebacker Winston Fenske forced Tigers running back Jacob Peterson to fumble after a 6-yard gain. The ball squirted almost 20 yards upfield where Warriors linebacker Jake Donnay recovered.
That set up a patented Brainerd fourth-quarter drive of 55 yards in 10 running plays. Conor Gessell capped the march with a 2-yard touchdown run, Logan McElfresh kicked the extra point, and it was 35-28 Brainerd with 1:47 remaining.
On fourth and one at the Tech 6, Brainerd’s Logan Davis ran four yards for a key first down.
“I looked in everyone’s eyes and said ‘We can get this.’” Warriors quarterback Luke Boran said. “We were down at the goal line there, and it was fourth down, and I knew we would get it. There was no doubt in my mind that we weren’t going to get it.”
Following the kickoff, Brainerd defensive back Grant Reuer sealed the win with a leaping interception, which he returned 48 yards for the final score.
Reuer’s pick six was the fourth Tech turnover. Thomas Stoxen made a first-quarter interception. And, Reuer forced a third-quarter fumble that teammate Cole Smith recovered. The Warriors converted all Tech turnovers into points.
“Grant Reuer at the end there, that was huge,” Boran said. “Those fumble recoveries that we had, that really helped us boost our confidence and got us the win.”
Brainerd finished with 414 total yards. Logan Davis rushed for 123 and a score. Gessell added 95 yards and two TDs.
“Our running game was a lot better than last week, we really got things going,” Boran said. “Conor Gessell and Logan Davis ran hard. They were breaking tackles left and right. That was getting us those big yards.”
Boran completed 11 of 20 passes for 129 yards and a TD. Cole Smith was his favorite target with six catches for 83 yards.
After starting slowly last week against Rocori, the Warriors quickly went to work Friday. On fourth and 19 on the game’s first possession, Boran hit Reuer for a 25-yard score.
After Stoxen’s interception, Boran ran 20 yards for a 14-0 lead.
Peterson, who rushed for 123 yards and scored all of the Tigers’ touchdowns, then rattled off three unanswered scores. An Austin Klaverkamp interception led to Peterson’s 38-yard run for a score.
On Tech’s second-to-last possession of the half, Peterson got behind the Warriors’ secondary to catch a 51-yard TD pass from quarterback Jay Kedrowski.
A Philip Amundson interception ended Brainerd’s next possession. Two plays later, Peterson ran for a 2-yard score and a 21-14 Tech halftime lead.
On Brainerd’s first possession of the second half, Davis ran for a 9-yard score and tied it 21-21.
Cole Smith’s fumble recovery late in the third quarter led to Gessell’s 42-yard TD burst along the sideline.
But Peterson tied it 28-28 on Tech’s next possession with a 4-yard run.
“We were pretty physical in that second half, and that’s what we need to be if we’re going to be good,” Stolski said. “I’m really happy for the kids because we’ve got quite a tradition here and they feel it too. We really came on so strong in that second half.”
Boran said it was important to get a win.
“We really wanted this one because that first game, we really didn’t play as well as we could have,” he said. “We knew we could step it up, so we came into this game with high confidence. We weren’t down about the first game. We knew we could win this one, which was important. 0-2 is a lot different than 1-1.”
St. Cloud Tech 0 21 0 7 — 28
Brainerd 14 0 7 21 — 42
B-Grant Reuer 25 pass from Luke Boran (Logan McElfresh kick) 8:26
B-Boran 20 run (McElfresh kick) 3:53
SC-Jacob Peterson 38 run (Herrera kick) 10:31
SC-Peterson 51 pass from Jay Kedrowski (Herrera kick) 1:46
SC-Peterson 2 run (Herrera kick) :52
B-Logan Davis 9 run (McElfresh kick) 8:16
B-Gessell 42 run (McElfresh kick) 11:35
SC-Peterson 4 run (Herrera kick) 7:20
B-Gessell 2 run (McElfresh kick) 1:47
B-Reuer 48 interception return (McElfresh kick)
Rushes-yards: SC 30-130, Brd 56-285
Pass comp-att-int-yds: SC 8-15-2-166, Brd 11-20-2-129
Total offense: SC 296, Brd 414
Fumbles-lost: SC 2-2, Brd 1-0
Rushing: Brd-Luke Boran 11-72, Logan Davis 29-123, Conor Gessell 15-95; SC-Jacob Peterson 28-123
Passing: Brd, Boran 11-20-129; SC-Jay Kedrowski 8-15-166
Receiving: Brd, Isaiah Smith 1-5, Cole Smith 6-83, Logan Jones 1-7, Grant Reuer 3-34; SC-Jesse LaVoi 2-69, Tanner Skaja 3-38
Mike Bialka, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.