With the score tied 14-14 in a smashmouth football game, the Brainerd Warriors needed a jolt.
Senior running back Logan Davis provided the wallop with a 70-yard touchdown burst on Brainerd’s first play in the second half and the Warriors went on to a 35-14 win over the Cambridge-Isanti Bluejackets in the Section 7-5A semifinals Saturday at Adamson Field.
Davis’ score was the first of three unanswered touchdowns by top-seeded Brainerd and sent the unbeaten Warriors to the section championship game Friday, when they will host Chisago Lakes, which beat Bemidji 35-28 in the other semifinal.
The fifth-seeded Bluejackets were restricted to 223 yards of total offense and were pinned inside their 30-yard-line the rest of the second half after tying the game 14-14 on their first series of the half.
In the fourth quarter alone, defensive lineman Dante Carrera-Valdez returned a fumble 6 yards for a TD and defensive backs Hayden Bukowski and Isaiah Stewart intercepted passes.
“Hats off to our defense,” Warriors coach Ron Stolski said. “The defensive staff really had a good plan. We knew they would come at us hard with that good fullback and a nice quarterback. We worked a few things out offensively. Then the defense gave us really good field position.”
C-I’s 13-play, 82-yard drive after the second-half kickoff culminated with a 5-yard TD run by Kyle Chromy. The possession consumed almost seven minutes.
On the first play after the C-I score, Davis cut to his right and galloped 70 yards along the sideline for the TD.
“The ‘O’ line did a great job,” said Davis, who finished with 128 yards rushing on 16 attempts. “They fired off the ball. They moved their guys off and I just ran ... untouched. It was a great play.
“We started off kind of slow, but we got into a rhythm and started playing our game. (The offensive line) just did a great job. They’ve been doing a great job all year. I owe it all to those guys.”
Stolski credited a half-time adjustment to offensive line coach Chet Stevenson for producing the game-changing score.
“We made a little adjustment at halftime, we did a little something, and the very first time we got the ball off their touchdown that adjustment opened up and Davis put on the jets,” Stolski said. “They were spying (Gessell), which is difficult to do when you’ve also got backs like Thomas Stoxen and Davis.”
After Davis gave Brainerd the lead for good, he was stymied at the C-I 1 on fourth and goal on the Warriors’ next possession, during which Logan McElfresh ran 19 yards for a first down from punt formation.
“I figured we were playing pretty good defense and had a touchdown lead,” Stolski said of the fake. “Even if we don’t make it, then they’ve got to go about 99 and a half yards.”
Two plays later, a throng of Warriors swarmed Chromy. Carrera-Valdez swiped the ball from Chromy’s arms and dashed 6 yards for a score and a 28-14 edge.
“I saw a whole bunch of our guys just holding (Chromy),” Carrera-Valdez said. “I just saw the ball hanging out there so I stripped the ball, picked it up and went for the touchdown.”
Later, the Warriors stopped C-I on fourth and eight at the Bluejackets’ 28. Three plays later, Conor Gessell ran 9 yards for the final score.
The Bluejackets opened the scoring in a tight first half with a 35-yard Hunter Vavra TD run. The teams traded possessions, but C-I’s ended with a 17-yard punt to its 42 as Warrior linebacker Troy Lenz nearly blocked the kick.
Brainerd’s subsequent drive featured a 7-yard pass from Davis to Stoxen for a first down from the wildcat formation. A pass interference assisted the drive, which ended with a Davis’ 4-yard TD run that tied it 7-7.
Five plays after C-I went three and out, Stoxen threw a 30-yard scoring pass to Isaiah Smith, who with a defender draped on him, came back to catch the ball and run it into the end zone.
Cambridge-Isanti 7 0 7 0 — 14
Brainerd 0 14 7 14 — 35
C-I-Hunter Vavra 35 run (Josh Samsa kick) 4:18
Brd-Logan Davis 4 run (Logan McElfresh kick) 6:20
Brd-Isaiah Smith 30 pass from Thomas Stoxen (Logan McElfresh kick) 2:29
C-I-Kyle Chromy 5 run (Samsa kick) 5:13
Brd-Davis 70 run (Logan McElfresh kick) 4:55
Brd-Dante Carrera-Valdez 6 fumble return (Logan McElfresh kick) 9:10
Brd-Conor Gessell 9 run (Logan McElfresh kick) 3:48
Rushes-yards: C-I 40-177, Brd 43-224
Pass comp-att-int-yds: C-I 5-16-2-46, Brd 9-12-1-72
Total offense: C-I 223, Brd 296
Rushing: Brd-Thomas Stoxen 5-17, Conor Gessell 19-60, Logan Davis 16-128, Logan McElfresh 1-19, Team 2-0; C-I-Chromy 19-64, Vavra 6-45, John Solberg 13-66, Eli Iglesias 2-3
Passing: Brd-Stoxen 8-11-1-65, Davis 1-1-0-7; C-I-Solberg 5-16-2-46
Receiving: Brd-Isaiah Smith 2-37, Cole Smith 4-17, Quinn McElfresh 2-11, Stoxen 1-7; C-I-Chromy 2-9, Vavra 2-36, Max Knowlton 1-1
MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.