Time off will be one of the incentives for the Brainerd Lumberjacks if they can defeat the Duluth-Superior Shoremen by at least three points Saturday.
Following a 31-6 thumping of the New Brighton Northern Terror in the first round of the playoffs last weekend the Lumberjacks and Shoremen will play an exhibition game at 5 p.m. Saturday at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth. A victory by at least three points will enable Brainerd to host the championship game July 25 and the Lumberjacks would not play again until then.
"We want to win by more than three so we can do that," Brainerd head coach J.J. Kern said.
No games are scheduled the Fourth of July or July 11. If the Lumberjacks lose Saturday they would host another playoff game July 18 against an opponent to be determined. The winner of that game would advance to the championship.
Kern welcomes the possibility of time off.
"We need to get bodies healthy," he said. "We've had some guys get injured. We've had to bring in some new guys due to injuries. We've had 8-10 injuries during the course of the year, to key players. Most of them have been starters.
"We've still been winning. For the most part both games we lost we could just as well have won."
Brainerd (5-2) has lost only to the Lakes Area Screaming Eagles 27-23 in the season opener and 21-19 to the Shoremen June 13.
In the earlier meeting against Duluth-Superior the Shoremen (7-1) trailed 13-0 at halftime and needed a 5-play drive with a little more than two minutes remaining to beat Brainerd. The drive ended with a 47-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Justin Brickley to Hollis Dukes. Brickley passed for 246 yards on 16 completions, with two touchdowns.
"They had a couple big plays," Kern said. "We need to stop the big pass play."
Offensively, Kern said the Lumberjacks have relied on the run in critical situations.
"We've pounded the ball," he said. "We had a little bit of everything going last week. The run has been our bread and butter. When we need something we go to the power running game. Last week was really the first game we couldn't do that. We didn't have the personnel because of injuries.
"When we need something we put Mike Munsterteiger at fullback and run behind him. We play him wherever we need him. Wherever their best player is we put him there."
Conversely, the Lumberjacks' run defense has been stout.
"People can't run on us," Kern said. "We've been a little inconsistent in the secondary. We will be playing excellent and all of a sudden we give up a big play."
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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