Coming off of two comebacks, the Brainerd Warriors hit the road Friday night for their first road test of the season.
The 1-1 Willmar Cardinals, who will host Brainerd Friday, will mark the first of four road games in the final six games of Brainerd’s season.
“Our kids ... are athletes, and a lot of them have traveled to other venues,” Warriors coach Ron Stolski said, “but you’re always interested to see how a team responds.
“It’s probably our longest trip ... you dress at a different school, then drive to the field, but historically we’ve played well away. Every team is a new team but in the past we have handled travel pretty well.”
For the third straight week, the Warriors will face an opponent that runs a spread offense with four wide receivers and no huddle.
“They feature one (running) back and lots of wide-open formations,” Stolski said. “It’s the same kind of offense that Rocori showed us and gave us a lot of trouble.”
Willmar is an experienced opponent with nine players returning on offense, six on defense. Many of those returning play both ways.
Among the returnees is senior Alex Grove, a three-year starter at quarterback. He has completed 27 of 50 passes for 279 yards and a score. He is also the team’s second-leading rusher with 135 yards and three TDs.
“Alex has really kind of become a coach on the field, which is what you want a quarterback to be,” Willmar coach Jon Konold said. “He gets everyone lined up, he makes the checks and audibles we need. He struggled the first week, but last week passed for (179) yards and rushed for (59). He’s a dual-threat guy for us.”
Austin Rambow returns at wide receiver. The 6-5 senior has 17 catches in two games for 166 yards and a score.
“Austin’s a 2-year starter, he’s got some size, and he runs pretty well,” Konold said. “He does a really nice job running routes and catching the football. He’s kind of a security blanket for Alex.”
Sophomore Michael Heitzman is the top rusher with 34 attempts for 233 yards and three TDs. He has rushed for 100 yards in each of the first two games.
“Michael is a first-year starter, he played as a freshman last year,” Konold said. “He’s worked extremely hard. He’s only about 5-6, and 165 pounds, but he’s a little bowling ball. He’s got great speed A couple of times this year he’s split safeties that had the angle on him. He hasn’t been caught yet. It’s kind of nice to have a home run threat in the backfield.”
Senior Zech Streed anchors the defense with 22 tackles from his linebacker spot. Junior defensive back Tyler Stegeman has three interceptions.
The Cardinals are coming off a 21-20 loss at Fergus Falls. They led 14-0 at one point and 20-14 with 2:56 remaining after missing the extra-point kick. Fergus embarked on a 10-play, 71-yard drive and scored with 15 seconds left and kicked the point after for the win.
“We played pretty well for most of the game,” Konold said. “It came down to the missed extra point on our last drive but there were things during the game that we could have done a little better. We were down on about the 10 on our first drive of the game and fumbled the ball.
“We could easily have been up 21-0 and it might have been a different story. Fergus Falls played well. They have good skill kids. They hung in there and made plays at the end.”
Tied at 28 against St. Cloud Tech last week, the Warriors scored 14 unanswered points in the last two minutes. Conor Gessell scored on a 2-yard run to cap a 10-play, 55-yard possession set up by a fumble recovery. Nineteen seconds later, Grant Reuer picked off a pass and returned it 48 yards for the final score.
A week earlier, in a 48-28 loss to Rocori, the Warriors rallied within 42-28.
“I hope we don’t have to always come back, that’s not a fun way to play,” Stolski said. “I mentioned that the other night and reiterated that to our kids Monday that that’s something we can feel good about.”
Konold will feel better if the Cardinals can beat Brainerd for the first time in 10 games.
“We always know Brainerd will be one of the top teams in the conference,” he said. “They’re one of the biggest schools in the state. They present a tremendous challenge for us. They always play us tough.
“They have a couple of ex-Willmar guys on their staff (Deryl and Jeff Ramey, Aron Anderson), so it’s always a little homecoming for those guys.”
QB: 11-Luke Boran, 12-Thomas Stoxen, 15-Logan McElfresh
RB: 23-Logan Davis, 22-Conor Gessell, 10-Mason Severson, 24-Matt Ramerth, 26-Matt Sucik
WR: 2-Isaiah Smith, 7-Grant Reuer, 18-Geoff Sheflo, 81-Quinn McElfresh
SR: 8-Logan Jones, 31-Cole Smith
TE: 15-Logan McElfresh, 54-Alex Mimmack
C: 64-Billy Desrocher, 57-Zach Shepersky, 50-Wyll Erickson
G: 63-Jon Asprey, 57-Zach Shepersky, 54-Alex Mimmack, 65-Andrew Seglem, 77-Zach Thomas
T: 67-Alex DeRosier, 68/87-Alex Evanson, 62-Andy Meierhofer, 75-James Weiss
Line: 55-Jace Engelmann, 88-Chris Bowman, 73-Eric Uphoff, 92-Tyler Fitch, 54-Alex Mimmack, 96-Chris Laber, 95-Lee Birchem, 78-Sam Adams, 66-Zach Hatcher
OLB: 36-T.J. Graumann, 33-Jake Donnay, 27-Troy Lenz
ILB: 34/52-Slade Simpson, 53-Sam Kelash, 30-Taylor Scheidenberger, 15-Logan McElfresh, 47-Winston Fenske
CB: 31-Cole Smith, 7-Grant Reuer, 12-Thomas Stoxen, 17-Beau Janousek
S: 16-Trevor Maier, 31-Cole Smith
Punter: 15-Logan McElfresh
Kicker: 15-Logan McElfresh
Punt return: 23-Logan Davis, 2-Isaiah Smith
Kickoff return: 23-Logan Davis, 22-Conor Gessell
Long snap: 33-Jake Donnay, 17-Beau Janousek
Holder: 11-Luke Boran, 12-Thomas Stoxen
LT: 70-Matt Crow, 52-Joey Lee
LG: 63-Cass Herzog, 62-Anthony Wood
C: 54-Josh Warne, 72-Bart Kerfeld
RG: 76-Andrew Buchanan, 62-Anthony Wood
RT: 72-Bart Kerfeld, 52-Joey Lee
TE: 11-Zech Streed, 19-Jordan Geurtz
WR: 13-Patrick Courtney, 81-Brandon Christenson
WR: 6-Chris Cunningham, 1-Nick Coquyt
WR: 80-Tyler Pendill, 8-Hunter Mottinger
WR: 87-Austin Rambow, 81-Brandon Christenson
QB: 15-Alex Grove, 6-Chris Cunningham
RB: 7-Michael Heitzman, 35-Cole Hagen
DE: 35-Cole Hagen, 52-Joey Lee
DT: 63-Cass Herzog, 62-Anthony Wood
DT: 76-Andrew Buchanan, 55-Leon Richards
DE: 72-Bart Kerfeld, 70-Matt Crow
LB: 19-Jordan Geurtz, 8-Hunter Mottinger
LB: 45-Josh Kelly, 34-Trey Tollefson
LB: 11-Zech Streed, 34-Trey Tollefson
LB: 34-Trey Tollefson, 5-Cole Schimek
FS: 6-Chris Cunningham, 8-Hunter Mottinger
CB: 4-Sean Zuidema, 13-Patrick Courtney
CB: 18-Tyler Stegeman, 13-Patrick Courtney
Aug 31, Rocori, LOST 48-28
Sept 7, St. Cloud Tech, WON 42-28
Sept 14, at Willmar 7 p.m.
Sept 21, Bemidji 7 p.m.
Sept 28, at St. Cloud Apollo 7 p.m.
Oct 6, St. Michael-Albertville 2 p.m.
Oct 12, at Grand Rapids 7 p.m.
Oct 17, at Alexandria 7 p.m.
Fergus Falls 2-0 2-0
Rocori 2-0 2-0
Sartell 1-0 2-0
Brainerd 1-1 1-1
St. Cloud Tech 1-1 1-1
Willmar 0-1 1-1
St. Cloud Apollo 0-1 0-2
Sauk Rapids 0-1 0-2
Alexandria 0-2 0-2
Sept. 7 Games
Brainerd 42, Tech 28
Fergus Falls 21, Willmar 20
Sartell 33, Big Lake 6
Rocori 43, Alexandria 0
Rogers 24, Apollo 12
Cambridge-Isanti 21, Sauk Rapids 6
Friday, Sept. 14
Brainerd at Willmar
Alexandria at Fergus Falls
Rocori at Apollo
Sauk Rapids at Sartell
Grand Rapids at Tech
Osseo 2-0 2-0
Anoka 0-0 2-0
Blaine 0-0 2-0
Brainerd 0-0 1-1
Maple Grove 0-1 1-1
Champlin Park 0-0 0-2
Coon Rapids 0-0 0-2
Centennial 0-1 0-2
Playoff seeding method to be determined
Sept. 7 Games
Brainerd 42, Tech 28
Anoka at Andover
Robbinsdale Armstrong at Blaine
Elk River at Centennial
Hopkins at Champlin Park
Coon Rapids at Minnetonka
Osseo at Maple Grove
Friday, Sept. 14
Brainerd at Willmar
Blaine at Osseo
Totino Grace at Anoka
Maple Grove at Elk River
Park Center at Champlin Park
Andover at Coon Rapids
RUSHING Att Yds Avg TD
Logan Davis 40 157 3.9 1
Conor Gessell 20 137 6.9 2
Luke Boran 26 83 3.2 2
Matt Ramerth 2 14 7.0 0
Thomas Stoxen 3 14 4.7 0
Ma. Severson 2 10 5.0 0
Matt Sucik 1 6 6.0 0
Team 3 -22 -7.3 0
PASSING Com Att Yds TD
Luke Boran 21 39 244 3
Thomas Stoxen 2 4 25 0
RECEIVING No Yds Avg TD
Cole Smith 10 131 13.1 0
Isaiah Smith 6 97 16.2 2
Grant Reuer 4 45 11.3 1
Logan Jones 3 32 10.7 0
Logan Davis 1 -4 -4.0 0
SCORING TD 2PT EPK TP
Conor Gessell 3 0 0 18
Isaiah Smith 2 0 0 12
Grant Reuer 2 0 0 12
Luke Boran 2 0 0 12
Lo. McElfresh 0 0 6 10
Logan Davis 1 0 0 6
Fumble recoveries: Sam Kelash, Jake Donnay, Cole Smith
Interceptions: Grant Reuer 2, Thomas Stoxen 1,
Season tackle leaders:
Points per-game average: Brainerd 35.0, opposition 38.0
Yards per game average: Brainerd 350.0, opposition 413.0