The only thing more brutal than the wind bustling through Harvey Shew Field at the Franklin Art Center on Saturday was the 46-0 rout the hard-hitting Brainerd Lumberjacks put on the Central Minnesota Mustangs.
After a heart-breaking loss in week one to the Lakes Area Screaming Eagles, the Lumberjacks hit back with vengeance as they rumbled for 381 yards and six touchdowns before an estimated 600 fans.
"We feel like we played a good team (last week) and we had them beat," Lumberjacks running back Shawn "Crazy Legs" Nelson said. "We feel like we had them beat, and it just set the tone for this week."
Two of the first three plays resulted in 19- and 16-yard gains as Shaun People set the tone for the Lumberjacks' running attack. The Lumberjacks' ground game gave the Mustangs fits all night as they juked their way to 231 yards.
"For offense the main thing we wanted to do was power running," Lumberjacks fullback Mike Munsterteiger said in regard to the adjustments that were made in preparation for Saturday's game. The Lumberjacks' power running was awe-inspiring, with eight plays going for 10 yards or more, and a 9-yard rumble by Munsterteiger as he pounded his way into the end zone with three Mustang defenders on his legs.
Shawn Nelson, who played along side J.J. Kern for the then-Alexandria Mustangs in 2003, jokingly claimed he was playing with a vendetta against his former team. Six years after earning the nickname "Crazy Legs," Nelson led the Lumberjacks with two touchdowns and 90 yards on 12 carries.
Perhaps the only thing more inspiring than the ankle-breaking moves and broken tackles was the Lumberjacks' outstanding defensive effort. Led by Pete Ryan and Ben Baratto with 5.5 tackles apiece, the stifling defense gave up only 79 yards.
After only gaining six yards on their first three-and-out possession, the Mustangs found themselves traveling backward on their next two and finishing with a solitary yard of production after the first quarter. The Lumberjacks' stone-wall defense finished with two sacks, 10 tackles for losses, and an interception by Caleb Forstrom that was returned 40 yards for a score.
The Mustangs never gave up despite their roster being reduced to 18 players after a community college coach forbid his players from participating in the league.
"They had a lot of heart," Munsterteiger said of the Mustangs. "They went out there and played hard the first half. When we scored right away it took the wind out of their sails."
The Lumberjacks added several new plays this week, including screens, pitch plays and a quarterback bootleg that they converted for two touchdowns.
"They worked out OK," Munsterteiger said about the new plays, "but it seemed like we're trying to learn from last week. I think another week of practice and they'll go better."
The adjustments that were made, and the new plays that Lumberjacks coach Kern implemented this week, are a great start, but the Lumberjacks still have room for improvement.
"There are still a lot of places where we need to get better," Kern said before praising his players for many of the adjustments that were made.
The Lumberjacks have a short time to iron out the wrinkles as they draw the Rochester Giants, who have won five of the past six league championships, at 6 p.m. Saturday.
"We've got a lot of tough games coming up, and if we come out sloppy like the first half it isn't going to happen," Munsterteiger said. "We have to be on our game. We've got a lot to improve on."
The Lumberjacks have shown immense improvement just two weeks into the season.
"We did better, we didn't make any mental mistakes," Kern said.
The Lumberjacks were edged 27-23 by the Eagles last week because of missed opportunities, turnovers, and were hurt by the big play. They found themselves on the other end of the spectrum Saturday as they allowed only one play over 10 yards and committed no turnovers.
Despite the staunch defense and improved running game, how good the Lumberjacks are remains to be seen.
"I'll tell you next week," Kern said. "We'll see what the Lumberjacks are made of after next week."
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