This is how it should be - two teams playing their final game of the regular season with a championship at stake.
With a victory over Sartell on Thursday the Brainerd Warriors have a chance to share the Central Lakes Conference with the Sabres, who have already clinched a share since they have yet to lose.
If Brainerd and Alexandria win, and Sartell loses, the three would share the crown.
"That's the position you like to have yourself in, in your final game of the year," Warriors coach Ron Stolski said. "It seems like we've been in that (situation) quite a bit."
Warriors vs. Sartell
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
The series: Brainerd leads 13-1. The Warriors won 41-7 in the 2008 regular season.
Brainerd has already locked up the No. 2 seed in the Section 8-5A playoffs and will host a semifinal game Oct. 31.
If it wins, Sartell will get the top seed in Section 8-4A. If it loses, and Alexandria wins, tie-breaking criteria will determine the top two seeds.
Tuesday, Buffalo beat Big Lake 42-7 to clinch the No. 1 seed with 16 Section 8-5A points. Brainerd can finish with no less than 12 section points. Cambridge-Isanti's 26-17 loss to Rogers Tuesday leaves it with 10 section points and the No. 3 seed.
Sartell is ranked fourth in 4A and is 6-0 in the CLC, 7-0 overall. It has outscored opponents 247-64 and features a balanced attack. Sartell likes to run behind bookend tackles Hayden Kelm (290 pounds) and Mike Schramel (285).
Quarterback Cole Jenkins has completed 59 of 111 passes (53 percent) for 852 yards and eight TDs. Rob Voshell is the leading receiver with 26 catches for 426 yards (16.4) and five TDs.
Halfback Josh Kremer leads the ground game with 133 rushes for 645 yards (4.8) and 18 TDs. Fullback Sean Tillman had run 56 times for 384 yards (6.9) and two TDs.
"I feel like we have good balance," Sabres coach John Ross said. "We've had different games that dictated the amount of throwing we've done. Obviously, we always try to run first. If we're successful doing that there's no reason to change. If teams load up against that, and we're not having success, we're not afraid to throw the ball. We have people with good skills in those areas."
The Sabres are a veteran team that features 20 senior starters.
"They're solid in every phase," Stolski said. "Kremer is a heck of a running back, as is Tillman. Jenkins is a good quarterback, they have good receivers, they're big, they move, they have an excellent defense. Year in and year out Sartell has good athletes."
Ross hopes the Sabres are more competitive than the last two times they've played Brainerd. The Warriors have outscored Sartell 88-14 in the last two meetings.
"We've been dominated the last two games, there's no question about that," Ross said. "I don't have an answer for it. We've had some pretty good teams, we just haven't performed well against Brainerd. In the past (the game) has always been on Wednesday (before state teacher conventions). I don't know if our guys weren't ready or what.
"We've kind of gone every other year that we play Brainerd tough, and get beat, the next year we get whupped on a little bit. Our last two games with them have not been good. Our goal is to go out, play football and find out how we match up.
"We really haven't had a game in the fourth quarter this year where we've said 'This is tight and this is what we're going to do.' Part of me says that's the situation we want to be in (Thursday). No. 1, it will be good for us because that means we're right in there at the end with Brainerd. I don't care what year it is, that's an accomplishment."
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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