Cliff Edberg has quietly labored in the background this fall while other Brainerd Warriors have received recognition.
In the regular season he rushed for 190 yards and three touchdowns. He developed into a receiving threat out of the backfield with 17 catches and two scores.
The senior running back burst into the foreground with a career performance Tuesday. He rushed for 178 yards and four touchdowns to help the third-seeded Warriors chop down the No. 6 Bemidji Lumberjacks 46-13 in the opening round of the Section 8, Class 5A playoffs at Adamson Field.
Edberg's legs, and another valiant defensive effort, put Brainerd in the section semifinals 2 p.m. Saturday at second-seeded Cambridge.
In the first quarter Edberg had 130 yards and touchdown runs of 3 and 31 yards. He added scoring runs of 2 yards in the second quarter and 1 yard in the third as Brainerd rolled to its fifth straight victory.
With halfback Brady Prince and fullback Clinton Strother, playing that position for the first time, blocking out of the backfield and the offensive line dominating Bemidji's defense, Edberg flourished on the left side.
"They were doing awesome," Edberg said of the offensive line. "They were making all their blocks, hitting all their guys.
"That side was open. (Wide receiver) Justin Mueller was able to block his guy well. They were more soft on that side, I guess. It was the play call. The coaches kept running it that way."
With Edberg and Strother leading the way, Brainerd amassed a season-high 501 yards. Edberg had six carries of at least 14 yards.
"Cliff has been playing fullback and halfback all season," Warriors coach Ron Stolski said.
Warriors 46, Bemidji 13
The stat: Cliff Edberg, who rushed for 190 yards in the regular season, racked up 178 yards and four touchdowns Tuesday in an opening round win.
Next: Semifinals, at Cambridge, 2 p.m. Saturday
"All season long he's been a very dependable back," Stolski added. "He runs the ball, catches it and blocks. He's a pretty good all-around back."
Strother, a 220-pound defensive lineman, gained 82 yards on just seven carries. He had three rushes of at least 13 yards.
"A couple weeks ago we began to look at Clinton a little bit at fullback to add some depth to our team," Stolski said. "With Geoff Roberts out (with an injury) we felt we needed to take a good look at Clinton. We got a pretty good look tonight."
Brainerd's defense looked like it did in the last half of the regular season. At halftime the Lumberjacks had just 70 yards and fell behind 39-7. They finished with 289 yards, the majority gained against Brainerd's second defense.
The Warrior defense forced four turnovers. Defensive back Sam Gervais snared his team-high fifth interception and returned it 43 yards to set up a Morgan Shepherd touchdown run.
"We had pretty much the same game plan we did last week," Warriors defensive lineman Brandon Freihammer said. "We just sat back. We pretty much knew what they were going to come at us with. Some of the trick plays, we were waiting for them. We just came at them hard. We just played like we've been playing all year, trying to force some turnovers."
Bemidji 0 7 6 0 -- 13
Brainerd 21 18 7 0 -- 46
Brd-Brady Prince 10 run (Sam Gervais kick) 9:41
Brd-Cliff Edberg 3 run (Gervais kick) 5:21
Brd-Edberg 31 run (Gervais kick) :39
Brd-Morgan Shepherd 13 run (run fails) 8:30
Brd-Edberg 2 run (kick fails) 2:29
Bem-Ryan Brown 21 run (Alex Lueck kick) 1:35
Brd-Justin Mueller 33 pass from Shepherd (kick fails) :14
Brd-Edberg 1 run (Gervais kick) 8:10
Bem-Chris Appicelli 20 pass from Cody Randt (kick fails) 2:43
First downs -- Bem 13, Brd 24
Rushes-yards -- Bem 33-125, Brd 61-450
Pass comp-att-int--yds -- Bem 8-11-1-164, Brd 3-4-0-51
Total offense -- Bem 289, Brd 501
Punts-avg -- Bem 5-30.8, Brd 2-33.0
Return yards -- Bem 148, Brd 132
Fumbles-lost -- Bem 3-3, Brd 1-1
Penalties-yds lost -- Bem 2-20, Brd 1-15
Rushing -- Bem-Ryan Brown 15-82; Brd-Prince 12-61, Edberg 16-178, Gregg Day 1-5, Clinton Strother 7-82, Shepherd 5-19, Tom Zelinske 7-38, Mike O'Day 8-47, John Schmalenberg 3-5, Mike Elder 2-15
Passing -- Bem-Randt 8-11-164; Brd-Shepherd 3-4-51
Receiving -- Bem-Appicelli 5-142; Brd-Mueller 1-33, Justin Huether 2-18
Overall -- Bem 0-9, Brd 7-2. Next game -- Brainerd at Cambridge 2 p.m. Saturday section semifinals.
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