Adamson Field was blacked out at halftime Friday as Brainerd dance teams performed an electrifying light stick routine.
When the lights came back on, interceptions by Brainerd cornerback Kevin Mertens and linebacker Chad Weiss helped the Warriors black out any thoughts the Sartell Sabres had of an upset.
On the first play of the second half, Mertens returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown, putting Brainerd ahead by three touchdowns on its way to a 42-14 romp before an overflow crowd.
"We were in a zone," Mertens said. "I saw they were doing outs and slants. I was playing a little tighter on them. They happened to throw an out, I broke in, caught it and saw daylight."
The interception was Mertens' ninth of the season. It helped fifth-ranked Brainerd remain unbeaten and clinch a share of the Central Lakes Conference championship.
"We're still trying to help him play some of the coverages a little bit better, but when the ball is in the air, he goes to it so well," Warriors defensive coordinator Steve Nunnink said of Mertens. "And, he catches everything. He's catching all our punts. Half of them you want him to get away from, but he's in there catching them anyhow. He's just having a really good year."
So is linebacker Chad Weiss. Three plays after Mertens' interception, the Warriors' season tackle leader intercepted a pass at the Sartell 31. Although the Warriors didn't convert the turnover into points, they pinned Sartell deep in its territory.
Brainerd, which scored 42 unanswered points after falling behind 7-0, was in Sartell territory all night, gaining 348 yards. Quarterback Mike Zauhar scored touchdowns on cutback runs of 63, 22 and 25 yards. He finished with 168 yards on 13 attempts, for a 12.9 average.
"Mike made some good reads," Warriors offensive coordinator Jeff Ramey said, "and we did a much better job of sustaining our blocks up front, which allowed him to use his quickness and cut to the open seams. That's one of the things we've been working on. Hats off to the offensive line for providing those seams.
"When you've got kids like Mike Zauhar, Mike Weiss, Luke Furda and Zach Toms, and all the other running backs we have, when you have those seams, good things are going to happen."
Zauhar also made things happen in the air, throwing a 12-yard touchdown to Mike Weiss. Zauhar finished with 227 yards total offense.
"Mike threw the ball extremely well," Ramey said. "He was very accurate. It was a big part of our offense in the first half, when we were able to throw our play action pass game."
The Warriors were also active on defense. They allowed just 104 yards in the second half, 238 total. Mike Weiss and Chris Foy shared a behind-the-line tackle and Seth Owens recorded a quarterback sack.
Sartell 7 0 0 7 -- 14
Brainerd 7 14 21 0 -- 42
Sar-Dan Strenge 1 run (Mike Doeden kick) 3:57
Brd-Mike Zauhar 63 run (Jorgen Hartje kick) 3:29
Brd-Zauhar 22 run (Hartje kick) 8:41
Brd-Mike Weiss 12 pass from Zauhar (Hartje kick) 2:18
Brd-Kevin Mertens 38 interception return (Hartje kick) 11:45
Brd-Zauhar 25 run (Hartje kick) 6:59
Brd-Zach Toms 21 run (Hartje kick) 3:41
Sar-Strenge 2 run (Doeden kick) 3:18
First downs -- S 12, B 16
Rushes-yards -- S 37-116, B 41-289
Pass comp-att-int--yds -- S 13-26-2-122, B 3-7-0-59
Total offense -- S 238, B 348
Punts-avg -- S 6-29.0, B 3-29.7
Return yards -- S 102, B 94
Fumbles-lost -- S 1-0, B 1-0
Penalties-yds lost -- S 3-25, B 2-25
Rushing -- S, Strenge 18-67; B, Zauhar 13-168, Mike Weiss 7-26, Luke Furda 3-4, Toms 6-53, Jeff Hight 5-23, Chris Klabo 6-9, Drew Herman 1-6
Passing -- S, Mike Mitzel 13-26-2-122; B, Zauhar 3-7-0-59
Receiving -- S, Brian Gasser 4-45; B, Devin O'Reilly 2-47, Mike Weiss 1-12
Conference -- B 5-0. Overall -- B 7-0. Next game -- Brainerd at Moorhead 7 p.m. Wednesday.
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