NEW BRIGHTON — Wade Steier gained 130 yards and a score on the ground while notching eight tackles and an interception on the defensive side of the ball as the No. 3-seeded Brainerd Lumberjacks edged the second seeded Twin Cities Titans 21-13 in the semifinals of the Midwest Premier Football League playoffs Saturday at Irondale High School.
The game started with a solid drive by the Titans, capped by a score, but the ‘Jacks went on a 21-0 run with a fumble return touchdown by Clarence Tahi, an 8-yard rushing touchdown by TJ Dean, and a rushing touchdown by Steier.
The Titans then scored with 30 seconds left on a last-ditch Hail Mary.
“Wade had an all around great game. He’s 165 pounds and made some of the toughest runs I’ve ever seen. He’s an unbelievable player, and pound for pound he’s the toughest guy I’ve met in my life,” Lumberjacks coach JJ Kern said.
Without his defensive coordinator at the game, Kern was the only coach and had to rely on middle linebacker Gyangelo Braden to be a player-coach on the defensive side of the ball.
“Gyangelo was a leader and a lot of guys stepped up,” Kern said. “It’s tough to call both sides of the ball.”
Mark Hummell threw for 175 yards and rushed for 70, and “played very solid football,” Kern said.
Ra Ra Jones caught one pass for 40 yards, but left the game due to an injury in his midsection. His status for next week is questionable.
Keyante Johnson, in his first game back after a collarbone injury, stepped up by gaining 80 yards off of five receptions.
“I’m proud of our offense, Keyante stepped up big in his first game back,” Kern said.
Titus Cole added three sacks on defense and Eric Johnson notched two, while TJ Dean and Steier each had interceptions.
The 9-3 Lumberjacks will play the 11-1 Minnesota Sting at Hamline University in St. Paul for the MPFL championship Saturday. The Sting lead the season series 2-0.
“Every year we expect to win the championship,” Kern said. “We’ve done that two out of the first three years we have been in the league. Nothing short will make us happy.”