The Brainerd Warriors have a reputation for being one of the state's most potent running teams every football season.
With the rugged Coon Rapids Cardinals defense limiting the effectiveness of the Warriors' running game Brainerd turned to the pass Friday at Adamson Field. Quarterback Billy Tadych and wide receiver Tim Siekas hooked up for two touchdowns and the Warriors' defense forced six turnovers as Brainerd registered a 20-12 non-conference win in the season opener for both teams.
The Warriors rushed for 148 yards, just 30 in the first half. Tadych threw for 110 yards but Coon Rapids outgained the Warriors 281-258.
"That's unusual for us," Warriors coach Ron Stolski said of having more success passing. "Usually it's the run game.
"I can't say enough great things about our defense. Our (defensive) staff put a heck of a plan together. We were opportunistic."
So were defenders like Mike Weiss and Dan Karlgaard. Weiss, a junior linebacker, pancaked Coon Rapids quarterback Dan Anderson and various Cardinals ball carriers on many occasions.
"They were bringing the heat and we didn't do anything to put any water on the fire," Coon Rapids coach Clayton Copple said.
Coon Rapids threatened to extinguish the Warriors' fire. In the fourth quarter Brainerd fumbled the ball away on consecutive possessions but Coon Rapids returned the favor on its last three series, all of which stalled in Brainerd territory.
Brainerd did a marvelous defensive job in the second half, giving up just 100 total yards and six points.
"Our defense played unbelievable," Weiss said. "It was just incredible. We stopped everything. Every time we needed a turnover we got one."
Karlgaard, a senior free safety, was responsible for three turnovers. He recovered one of four Coon Rapids fumbles and intercepted two passes. Karlgaard picked off Anderson at 9:10 of the final quarter when the Cardinals had first and 10 at the Brainerd 15. With about four minutes left Karlgaard made a spectacular dive to intercept Anderson at the Brainerd 38.
"Karlgaard had two great interceptions," Stolski said. "They were two great-effort interceptions."
Siekas scored on a 53-yard curl pattern in the first quarter and on a 26-yard toss in the second, helping Brainerd to a 14-6 halftime edge. He finished with four catches for 108 yards.
"Brainerd runs 95 percent of the time," Siekas said. "They didn't expect (Brainerd to pass)."
Tadych, a senior left-hander, completed 5 of 11 passes and did not throw an interception.
"Tadych to Siekas was an excellent combination tonight," Stolski said. "You got a good idea of the kind of receiver Siekas is and Billy threw the ball right on the money."
Siekas, a second-year starter, also lauded his quarterback, who was making his first varsity start.
"I don't think he threw one bad pass the whole night," Siekas said. "He did a wonderful job."
Dan Anderson answered Siekas' first touchdown with a 6-yard option run with 2:17 left in the first quarter that tied the score at 6-6.
Adam Hardy's 14-yard run on the first possession of the third quarter put Brainerd ahead 20-6.
On the first play of the fourth quarter the Cardinals pulled within the final score as Dan Anderson passed three yards to Digger Anderson in the front corner of the end zone.
Coon Rapids 6 0 0 6 -- 12
Brainerd 6 8 6 0 -- 20
B-Tim Siekas 53 pass from Billy Tadych (run fails) 7:27
CR-Dan Anderson 6 run (kick fails) 2:17
B-Siekas 26 pass from Tadych (Siekas pass from Tadych) 6:53
B-Adam Hardy 14 run (kick fails) 8:54
CR-Digger Anderson 3 pass from Dan Anderson (kick fails) 11:57
First downs -- CR 11, B 14
Rushes-yards -- CR 34-111, B 49-148
Pass comp-att-int--yds -- CR 10-19-2-170, B 5-11-0-110
Total offense -- CR 281, B 258
Punts-avg -- CR 4-32.3, B 5-32.6
Return yards -- CR 63, B 79
Fumbles-lost -- CR 6-4, B 3-2
Penalties-yds lost -- CR 7-50, B 4-20
Rushing -- CR-John Hendricks 18-64; B-Tadych 10-8, Hardy 14-38, Jeff Goodman 8-55, Mike Weiss 15-48, Dan Kirkpatrick 2-(-1)
Passing -- CR-Dan Anderson 10-19-170; B Tadych 5-11-110
Receiving -- CR-Jamel Alkins 7-102; B-Siekas 4-108, Matt Means 1-2
Overall -- B 1-0, CR 0-1. Next game -- Brainerd hosts Willmar 7 p.m. Sept. 8.
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