Throughout the Ron Stolski era, the Brainerd Warriors football program has produced a bevy of skill position players. Standouts like Tony Veith, Sandy Smith, Mike Musty, Justin Kieffer and Brian Day made headlines and brought thousands of fans to their feet on Friday nights.
This fall, the Warriors may have two of their best skill position players since Stolski arrived in 1975. Senior Mike Zauhar returns as a quarterback/defensive back and senior Mike Weiss as a halfback/linebacker.
Both are beginning their third season as starters. They were All-Central Lakes Conference and All-Section, Class 5A selections in 2000. In addition, Weiss was voted the team's most valuable player.
The challenge facing Stolski and his staff is to develop the quality that surrounds Zauhar and Weiss and maintain the Warriors' winning tradition. In the last 12 seasons, Brainerd has won 92 of 125 games (.736), three conference championships and three section titles.
"We're hoping to develop enough kids so we can play a true two-platoon system," Stolski said.
Weiss rushed for 1,202 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 8.3 yards per attempt. On defense, he was the team's third-leading tackler with 108.
"Mike is a big, strong, fast physical kid who loves football," Stolski said. "He has done a lot of things in the offseason to see that he has a good season.
"He has to be our leader defensively like Zauhar is our leader offensively. He's got to set the tone and pace on defense. It's a responsibility but he's up to it."
Zauhar rushed for 593 yards and eight scores, averaging 8.1 per attempt, and passed for 450 yards and nine touchdowns. He also intercepted two passes and made 28 tackles.
"Mike has the makings of an outstanding high school quarterback," Stolski said. "He has great quickness, throws the ball very well, is smart and is an exceptional competitor."
Weiss and Zauhar will be surrounded by three seniors who started the entire 2000 season and four others who started part of the time.
Senior Chris Foy (6-foot-2, 225 pounds), who will captain the team along with Weiss and Zauhar, returns as a defensive lineman. Foy made 90 tackles, received all-conference honorable mention and made the all-section team.
"Foy was a real good anchor," Stolski said. "He came on at the end of last season."
Also returning are running back-defensive back Jason Goerges, fullback Jeff Goodman, guard Jeff Hanson, defensive lineman Seth Owens (6-4, 250) and defensive back Ben Winterfeld.
Goodman, who rushed for 358 yards, one touchdown and a 6.2 average, received all-conference honorable mention. Winterfeld was voted the team's most improved junior. Goerges, who converted 40 of 50 extra-point kicks, was voted the special teams player of the year.
"We have been extremely impressed with Seth Owens, the work he did in the offseason to get himself ready physically," Stolski said.
"Early on, you have to lean on experience, the kids who have been players, then you have to bring the rest of the kids up to the level of conference and section play," Stolski added. "That is the task, getting used to the intensity."
Brainerd will build its offensive line around Hanson (6-4, 260) and senior tackle Jon Weston (6-2, 264).
"(Line coach) Chet Stevenson has a history of having good offensive lines here," Stolski said. "We've got to be patient with this one. Hopefully, it will come along and be up to our standard."
Goerges and Zauhar likely will return kicks and punts. Soccer player Jorgen Hartje is the front-runner to be the kicker. Weiss averaged 36.8 yards per punt last season. Goerges and backup quarterback Chris Klabo may also receive an opportunity to punt.
For the first time, the conference will be divided into three pods of four teams apiece.
Moorhead, Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls and Bemidji make up the North; Brainerd, Little Falls, Sartell and St. Cloud Apollo are in the Central; and Willmar, Alexandria, St. Cloud Tech and Rocori in the South.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.