Even though his team is winless, St. Cloud Apollo Eagles coach Jon Benson can't wait to play the Brainerd Warriors in their homecoming game Saturday afternoon at Adamson Field.
The Eagles have been outscored by an average of 19 points in losses to Rocori, Sauk Rapids, Alexandria and Sartell.
Apollo vs. Warriors
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Adamson Field, Brainerd
The series: Brainerd leads 30-7. The Warriors won 21-2 in the 2008 regular season.
"I look at homecoming as a real good distraction for the home team," Benson said. "We don't mind playing homecoming games whatsoever. Our kids are excited about the chance to be a spoiler, ruin everyone's weekend.
"I guarantee our kids will come up there prepared to play a physical game with Brainerd. You're going to see our best team of the year. We have gotten better. We want to play football for four quarters. We're optimistic. I feel like we can take three of four of the last games the way we're playing right now. We have to start somewhere."
Saturday will mark the sixth of six days of festivities preceding the game. Warriors coach Ron Stolski said it's a misconception that he doesn't like homecoming week.
"I love homecoming," he said. "The reality is a lot is asked of our kids during this time, then there's the expectation that you have to go play well. We have had homecomings in our past, not our recent past, where we didn't perform well because so many things lead up to the game.
"Homecoming's a special time for everybody. All we hope is our kids will focus. The homecoming game is going to be one of their fondest memories, certainly it is for our coaching staff, all of whom were players. Not only do they remember homecoming as players, but they remember it as a coach as well."
A snapshot of Apollo's season occurred last week against Sartell. Within a 22-second span the Eagles gave up fumble and kickoff returns for scores.
"Other than that it's 21-14 in the fourth quarter against Sartell, a team that will contend for the conference title," Benson said. "We left that game feeling like we accomplished a lot of things. Our team came together and played hard. We were right there."
The Eagles will present the latest challenge for Brainerd's defense. This season the Warriors have seen the option, spread and no-huddle and pro set. Apollo will run the single wing, which has no quarterback under center, much like the wildly popular wildcat formation.
Devon Redd leads the Eagles with 333 yards rushing and three TDs. Chris Rocheleau has added 318 yards and two scores.
"Offensively, it's football of 50-some years ago," Stolski said. "Therein creates the problem. We haven't seen that kind of offense this season and we're not likely to see it again. It will be a whole different challenge for us. They're going to be very physical, try to run the ball at us with an awful lot of people in one place.
"With that said, our strength this season has been our defense and special teams play. We're going to need to continue to get the kind of play we've been getting."
Brainerd has forced six fumbles, but no interceptions. It has been limiting foes to an average of 11 points and 274 yards a game.
Other than at Willmar, where they scored 35 points, the Warriors' offense has been inconsistent. Of its 84 points, 15 have been scored by special teams.
"We're looking to elevate our offensive consistency," Stolski said. "We get some fine plays here and there, then we break down here, we break down there. We're at a point in our season where inexperience can't be an excuse."
Junior varsity wins
Brainerd's junior varsity beat Grand Rapids 38-6 last week. Jack Luke was named the player of the game.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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