With the Central Lakes Conference championship out of their grasp the Brainerd Warriors will play for a high seed in Section 8-5A as they end the regular season Wednesday with a home game against the Sartell Sabres.
Brainerd has locked up no less than the No. 3 seed and has a shot at the top two if St. Cloud Tech and Buffalo lose Wednesday. If Tech and Buffalo win the Warriors will be No. 3.
It will be parents night as well as recognition night for the Brainerd junior high and middle school programs.
"This is an important game for us," Warriors coach Ron Stolski said. "We want to finish strong in front of our parents and our community and salute our football program.
Sartell at Warriors
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Adamson Field, Brainerd
The series: Brainerd leads 12-1. Brainerd won 47-7 last season.
"We have a number of coaches who do a tremendous job, starting with the sophomore staff of Mike Langer, Joe Pohlkamp and Wade Haapajoki, the ninth grade staff of Bryce Gross, Tom Smith, Matt Urbanek and Mike Boran and our junior high coaches. We're so proud of our football program."
The Warriors (5-2) hope to enter the playoffs with momentum, following a 31-29 loss to Fergus Falls last week. A number of questionable calls went against Brainerd (ineligible receiver downfield on a 2-point conversion, reversing the recovery of an onside kick and awarding the Otters a touchdown when the receiver and defensive back appeared to land out of bounds).
"Our kids were disappointed in the outcome," Stolski said. "Their heads were hanging, they felt so bad. But they may very well have added to the tradition (of Warrior football) because the whole thing is not only to enhance the tradition but to enhance your legacy as well."
Brainerd trailed 31-7 in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Scott Ramey completed 7 of 8 passes for 131 yards and three TDs in the fourth.
Sartell, meanwhile, suffered its third straight loss, 21-13 against Sauk Rapids. The Sabres were 3-1 at midseason but have been beset by turnovers.
"Against Willmar we turned it over five or six times," Sabres coach John Ross said. "We did the same thing against Bemidji, we had about six, they had none. We only had two turnovers against Sauk Rapids and they didn't have any, so we still lost the turnover battle."
Sartell trailed 14-13 at halftime after missing an extra point. Sauk Rapids scored in the third quarter and held on.
"We had some opportunities to get into the end zone," Ross said. "We fumbled the ball away twice in our territory. That led to short fields for them. They're a quality team but we played pretty well."
Ross said the Sabres have struggled to run. Josh Kremer is the leading rusher with 452 yards and six TDs.
Quarterback Cole Jenkins has completed 67 of 142 passes for 954 yards and eight TDs.
"Cole throws a nice ball," Ross said. "As a junior he's had a lot of learning and catching up to do. Stepping in as a varsity quarterback is tough sometimes. It's taken a little while for him to get a grasp of what we're doing."
Nick Rengel, one of Sartell's top receivers who has verbally committed to Minnesota, is out for the season after suffering a knee injury against Bemidji. Brayde Lipp, also an explosive kick returner, has 17 catches for 355 yards and four TDs. Lipp has returned a few kickoffs and punts for touchdowns.
"He's got explosive speed," Ross said of Lipp. "He's been a big-play guy for us."
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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