ALEXANDRIA — With a 42-7 win over Alexandria on a dreary Wednesday night, the Brainerd Warriors sent a message to Section 5-6A coaches — That an outstate team with a 6-2 record deserves a top four seed in the section playoffs.
The win also clinched Brainerd a share of its third straight Central Lakes Conference championship as St. Cloud Apollo bumped off league-leading Fergus Falls 27-20. Brainerd, Fergus and Rocori all finished with one CLC loss.
Rocori beat St. Cloud Tech 26-13 to forge the 3-way tie.
Building upon a 14-0 halftime edge, the Warriors scored 28 points in the third quarter on a night that featured a stiff north wind and a constant drizzle. Unfortunately, the contest also included an approximate 25-minute delay to tend to an Alexandria player who broke his collarbone on the second-to-last play of the third quarter.
Section seeding will be conducted at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, at Osseo, but seed position doesn’t concern Warriors head coach Ron Stolski.
“We played really hard,” Stolski said after the final game of the regular season. “That’s all we ask our kids to do. I told them ‘You know what I really care about? It’s this badge of honor that you wear, this decal on your shirt, and whatever else happens, happens.’”
Brainerd racked up 413 yards rushing, 460 total yards, as its offensive line imposed its will on the Cardinals. The Warriors ran 59 plays from scrimmage to Alexandria’s 40.
The defense, meanwhile, was like a stone wall, limiting the Cardinals to 164 total yards, 65 on a touchdown scamper by quarterback John Vogeler.
“I think a lot of the story was defense because they have a good offense, I
thought so anyhow,” Stolski said. “We just stayed after them. I’m really
proud of the kids and we’ll see what happens.”
Brainerd forced five fumbles and recovered three. Winston Fenske, Chris Laber and T.J. Graumann were credited with the recoveries. Brainerd scored 14 points off of turnovers and lived in Alexandria’s backfield, with nine tackles for losses.
“We worked on a couple new things this week, on a short week, and the kids responded to the new things,” Warriors defensive coordinator Jason Freed said. “We were able to put on a lot of pressure and get a lot of penetration with our defensive linemen, which allowed our guys to scrape off and make a lot of plays. It was our best effort of the year, defensively.”
Conor Gessell had a second straight dazzling night, running 19 times for 182 yards and two scores. Quarterback Luke Boran added 116 yards on 17 carries and two TDs. Logan Davis returned to the lineup after an injury and contributed 80 yards and two TDs on 13 carries.
“It was good to see Logan Davis back,” Stolski said. “And, we made some good adjustments. They were doing some things to us and our staff made good adjustments.”
Brainerd scored on four of its first five possessions in the second half. Two Cole Smith kickoff returns, both of which he nearly took to the house, totalled 102 yards and set up two scores.
Boran got the scoring parade started with a 5-yard run in the third quarter. Gessell followed on the next possession with a 52-yard blast. After Vogeler’s long run, Davis banged into the end zone from a yard out. Two series later he scored from 5 yards away.
In the first half, Boran scored on a 9-yard keeper and Gessell added an 8-yard spurt for the 14-point halftime edge.
Brainerd 14 0 28 0 — 42
Alexandria 0 0 7 0 — 7
Brd-Luke Boran 9 run (Logan McElfresh kick) 3:01
Brd-Conor Gessell 8 run (McElfresh kick) 33.5
Brd-Boran 5 run (McElfresh kick) 9:31
Brd-Gessell 52 run (McElfresh kick) 8:00
Alx-John Vogeler 65 run (Chandler Davis kick) 7:45
Brd-Logan Davis 1 run (McElfresh kick) 4:52
Brd-Davis 5 run (McElfresh kick) 6.4
Rushes-yards: Brd 57-413, Alx 37-155
Pass comp-att-int-yds: Brd 2-6-1-47, Alx 2-8-0-9
Total offense: Brd 460, Alx 164
Fumbles-lost: Brd 0-0, Alx 5-3
Rushing: Brd-Luke Boran 17-116, Conor Gessell 19-182, Logan Davis 13-80,
Matt Sucik 2-3, Matt Ramerth 4-14, Logan McElfresh 1-7, Evan Brecht 1-11;
Alx-John Vogeler 14-122, Jake Bear 9-10, Mitchell Peck 9-26
Passing: Brd-Boran 1-5-17, Davis 1-1-30; Alx-John Vogeler 2-8-9
Receiving: Brd-Isaiah Smith 1-30, Grant Reuer 1-17; Alx-Aaron Steidl 2-9
MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.