BEMIDJI -- Kevin Mertens is developing into a prime-time player in the Brainerd Warriors' secondary.
Last week against Detroit Lakes the junior cornerback intercepted three passes. He picked off two more Friday to help the sixth-ranked Warriors remain unbeaten with a 28-6 Section 8, Class 5A win over the Bemidji Lumberjacks.
Mertens' interceptions, which he returned for 77 yards, were his fifth and sixth of the season. And, both led to Brainerd touchdowns.
The 170-pound Mertens said his interception streak has been a combination of good timing and the play of the defensive line and linebackers.
"Our linemen are doing well," he said. "They're getting in there, knocking balls down, and the linebackers are dropping into their zones."
The Warriors forced three turnovers in all, and all three resulted in scores. Bemidji coughed the ball up twice in the first six minutes and the Warriors waltzed to a 14-0 lead.
"When we got down 14-0 it took us a little bit out of our game plan," Bemidji coach Troy Hendricks said. "And, from that point on, I probably called a poor game. We just didn't execute the passing game."
Mertens and his defensive teammates limited Bemidji to 216 total yards, 93 in the second half. Defensive back Mike Kostohryz recovered a fumble that led to quarterback Mike Zauhar's 4-yard scoring run in the first quarter. Linebacker Mike Weiss and lineman Chris Foy recorded quarterback sacks.
The previously unbeaten Lumberjacks were shut out for all but the game's final 21 seconds.
"We had some good pressure," Warriors defensive coordinator Steve Nunnink said. "Our defensive backs played well, and (linemen) Seth Owens and David Jones did a nice job inside on their run game, which forced them to do some things I don't think they wanted to do. I think that was one of the keys to the game."
Another key was the running of halfback Mike Weiss, who exceeded the 100-yard mark for the second straight week. Weiss bashed his way to 156 yards on 25 carries, a 6.2 average, and scored three touchdowns.
Weiss singled out the blocking of fullback Luke Furda and the offensive line for another productive night.
"Furda especially, I have to give him credit," Weiss said. "He took a lot of big shots, and our offensive really jelled. They played like a unit."
On the Warriors' first possession, Weiss scored on a 5-yard run following an interception that Mertens returned 50 yards to the Bemidji 19.
Weiss scored on a 28-yard run late in the third quarter. Early in the fourth, he tallied on a 2-yard burst following a Mertens interception return of 27 yards.
"Mike Weiss is the kind of player that gets better as the game goes on," Warriors offensive coordinator Jeff Ramey said. "He thrives in a physical situation, and this was a physical football game. I'm proud of our kids for matching their physical style of play.
"We're starting to hang our hat on the offensive line more and more. They're coming together as a group. They're building confidence it seems with every series of downs."
Brainerd 14 0 6 8 -- 28
Bemidji 0 0 0 6 -- 6
Brd-Mike Weiss 5 run (kick fails) 6:43
Brd-Mike Zauhar 4 run (Mike Weiss pass from Zauhar) 4:09
Brd-Mike Weiss 28 run (kick fails) 3:21
Brd-Mike Weiss 2 run (Zauhar run) 7:04
Bem-Brett Skarnes 21 pass from Darren Caspers (kick fails)
First downs -- Brd 14, Bem 12
Rushes-yards -- Brd 53-242, Bem 27-115
Pass comp-att-int--yds -- Brd 3-3-0-43, Bem 10-24-2-101
Total offense -- Brd 285, Bem 216
Punts-avg -- Brd 3-27.3, Bem 4-42.5
Return yards -- Brd 106, Bem 52
Fumbles-lost -- Brd 3-0, Bem 1-1
Penalties-yds lost -- Brd 6-45, Bem 2-10
Rushing -- Brd, Zauhar 11-38, Mike Weiss 25-156, Zach Toms 10-29, Jeff Goodman 3-12, Luke Furda 3-6, Drew Herman 1-1; Bem, Mikal Peterson 10-69, Anthony Acosta 13-46
Passing -- Brd, Zauhar 3-3-0-43; Bem, Caspers 10-24-2-101
Receiving -- Brd, Mike Weiss 1-10, Jeff Hight 1-10, Brent Potvin 1-23; Bem, Skarnes 4-66
Conference -- Brd 2-0. Overall -- Brd 4-0. Next game -- Willmar at Brainerd 7 p.m. Friday.
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