ST. CLOUD -- After two straight losses the Brainerd Warriors needed a win to stay in contention for one of the top two seeds in the Section 8, Class 5A football playoffs.
Brainerd's 29-14 victory over St. Cloud Tech on Friday gave the Warriors a 3-2 overall record with games remaining against Sauk Rapids (3-2), at Willmar (2-3) and against Bemidji (0-5).
"This was real important," Brainerd running back Brady Prince said. "We needed to get a little more jump in our step after those two losses."
The Warriors may have beaten considerable odds to defeat Tech.
Brainerd made four bad snaps in punt formation, one over the head of punter Sam Gervais, and bounced three others on the ground.
Gervais was injured early in the first quarter and did not return. That forced Brainerd to have sophomore Carl Sneep take over Gervais' kickoff duties and sophomore Matt Siegel to assume the punting duties.
Sneep averaged 34.5 yards on four kickoffs. The only punt Siegel got away was partially blocked. He was forced to take losses totaling 28 yards because of two bad snaps.
"We've spent more time on special teams this year than at any time in my career," said Warriors coach Ron Stolski, who's in his 42nd season. "Snaps have been a problem all year. We tried two different snappers tonight. It's something we need to correct. You saw the one great snap we had. It was like a rifle."
The Warriors made several moves on defense. Gregg Day moved from running back to linebacker, Nate Maaske from wide receiver to free safety and captain Shane Sullivan played his first game at linebacker after recovering from an injury.
"We switched up some of the personnel this week," Warriors defensive lineman Brandon Freihammer said. "We rotated in some more people, put in a couple more packages, like a goal-line package, and shifted it up a little bit. We just had great practices all week."
Brainerd surrendered only 74 rushing yards and 34 passing.
"At this point we're pretty one-dimensional and they're smart enough to put quite a few guys in the box," Tech coach Ron Kaczor said. "They shut down our run pretty effectively. We need to be able to figure out a way to put the ball in the air a little bit better than that.
"They come right at you. I thought up front they controlled the line of scrimmage, on both sides of the ball, particularly their defensive line did well. Their linebackers filled well. With the exception of just a couple of plays they were in our face right away."
Tech's defense performed admirably, allowing just 230 yards, 41 in the second half.
"We kept after them," Kaczor said. "We told the kids the difference between this week and last week (a 17-10 win at Moorhead) was we made some plays. We didn't make any plays tonight."
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