Two teams reeling from either misfortune or injury will clash 7 p.m. Tuesday at Adamson Field in the quarterfinals of the Section 8, Class 5A football playoffs.
After opening the regular season with four victories, the St. Cloud Tech Tigers dropped the last four to draw the No. 7 seed.
In their last two regular-season games, the Brainerd Warriors lost three starters with season-ending injuries. Strong safety Dan Abear injured his neck against Sartell. Fullback Luke Furda and cornerback Kevin Mertens suffered knee and collarbone injuries, respectively, against Moorhead.
To add insult to injury, starting running back/middle linebacker/punter Mike Weiss aggravated a shoulder injury against Moorhead. He is questionable for Tuesday.
"Injuries are a matter of bad luck," Warriors coach Ron Stolski said. "A year ago we weren't really hurt at all. It's just misfortune. I don't think it's any one single thing. We've got a rash of them for whatever reason. That's the reality of the sport."
The injuries will test the depth of the Warriors, who drew the No. 2 seed.
"We're kind of a thin team anyway," Stolski said. "That's where it really creates problems. We just have to call on the kids we have. Our kids work hard in practice. We prepare them to play. They will have to do the best they can.
"There's an old (Ernest) Hemingway saying: "It's not time to worry about what you don't have, it's time to do with what you have." We have always believed that, and I think our kids believe that. That's our approach."
The Warriors can't afford to take a cautious approach against Tech. They beat the Tigers just 14-7 Oct. 5. Tech's only score was on a 39-yard reverse in the third quarter.
Three of the Tigers' losses have come in the final quarter, two by field goals in the last 15 seconds.
Bemidji nipped the Tigers 14-7 in the regular-season finale as the Lumberjacks scored on a 50-yard pass with two minutes left. The Tigers lost despite 130 yards rushing by running back Ryan Thompson, who has replaced Justin Kamphenkel, who continues to be plagued by a sprained ankle.
"The only game we've seen Tech play where the other team won without getting lucky was us," Stolski said. "We got two touchdowns on them, and pretty much held them down, other than on the reverse."
The Warriors suffered their only loss, 39-21, at Moorhead in the regular-season finale. As the injuries mounted, Brainerd demonstrated considerable character, trailing just 27-21 after three quarters.
Brainerd turned to the air as its running game was hampered by the loss of Mike Weiss and Furda. Quarterback Mike Zauhar passed for 139 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 72 yards and a score.
Zauhar leads the running game with 795 yards and 14 touchdowns. Mike Weiss has 715 yards and 10 touchdowns but has been limited to 51 yards in the last two games.
Brainerd is averaging 351 yards and 35 points to its opponents' 264 yards and 15 points.
In other section quarterfinals Tuesday, No. 8 St. Cloud Apollo will be at No. 1 Alexandria, No. 5 Moorhead will be at No. 4 Cambridge and No. 6 Duluth East will be at No. 3 Bemidji. Semifinals are Saturday at times to be announced.
"As it happened, a lot of potential ties didn't occur because of us losing, Tech losing, Moorhead winning, and Cambridge winning," Stolski said. "What looked like it could be a real mess didn't happen."
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