St. Cloud Tech Tigers football coach Ron Kaczor must have thought, "Not this again."
The Tigers lost two games this season on field goals in the last 15 seconds and another in the final minute on a long touchdown pass.
In the Section 8, Class 5A quarterfinals against the top-seeded Brainerd Warriors Tuesday, the No. 7 Tigers built a 19-7 lead. They watched the Warriors rally in the second half before Tech emerged with a shocking 19-14 win at Adamson Field.
"We focused all week on not looking back at what happened, other than the fact we learned some things as we went along," Kaczor said. "I thought our kids kept focused and the coaching staff made good choices down the stretch. It was nice to get rewarded."
A ball-control offense rewarded the Tigers, who rushed for 219 yards, and kept the ball away from Brainerd, which ran for just 128.
Tech also played staunch defense, yielding just 267 total yards.
Brainerd had just three possessions in the first half, one stalled on fourth down at the Tigers' 22. In the second half, three Brainerd possessions ended inside the Tech 20 following failed fourth-down conversions.
"I felt we were going to have a big night offensively," Warriors coach Ron Stolski said. "Then we got down 10-0, and they were holding the ball. I'm sure we threw more than we ran. We were simply fighting the clock."
Trailing 17-0, the Warriors got on the board just before halftime. A Warrior punt touched a Tiger and Brainerd recovered at the Tech 24. Four plays later, quarterback Mike Zauhar plunged into the end zone from a yard out and Jorgen Hartje kicked the extra point to trim the halftime deficit to 17-7.
The Warriors' defense trimmed the Tigers in the second half, surrendering just 56 yards. Tech crossed midfield twice in the second half, fumbling the ball away at the Brainerd 3, and having a 47-yard touchdown run by quarterback Mitch Denne negated by holding.
Tech's only points in the second half were scored when Warriors punter Mike Weiss stepped on the back line of the end zone while in punt formation, giving the Tigers a safety.
"I thought in the second half, defensively, we played valiantly," Stolski said, "but there are two halves in a game."
Brainerd's offense was unable to score in the second half until 41 seconds remained. That's when sophomore Justin Mueller leaped between Tiger defenders in the end zone to catch an 18-yard touchdown pass from Zauhar.
Tech recovered the subsequent onside kick and the Warriors' season was history.
Two first-quarter turnovers tormented the Warriors. After Zauhar threw an interception to end Brainerd's first possession, Tech quarterback Mitch Denne found Anders Johnson for a 23-yard scoring pass.
On the ensuing kickoff, Brainerd's Chris Klabo fumbled and Tech recovered at the Warriors' 16. Shawn Lindsay wound up kicking a 27-yard field goal for a 10-0 Tech lead.
A 16-play, 78-yard march on its next possession put Tech ahead 17-0. Justin Kamphenkel ran four yards for the score.
St. Cloud Tech 10 7 2 0 -- 19
Brainerd 0 7 0 7 -- 14
SC-Anders Johnson 23 pass from Mitch Denne (Shawn Lindsay kick) 3:06
SC-Lindsay 27 FG, 1:33
SC-Justin Kamphenkel 4 run (Lindsay kick) 3:13
Brd-Mike Zauhar 1 run (Jorgen Hartje kick) 1:03
SC-Safety, punter's foot touches back line of end zone, 4:07
Brd-Justin Mueller 18 pass from Zauhar (Hartje kick) :41
First downs -- SC 14, B 13
Rushes-yards -- SC 55-219, B 24-128
Pass comp-att-int--yds -- SC 2-4-0-29, B 11-29-1-139
Total offense -- SC 248, B 267
Punts-avg -- SC 5-33.2, B 2-27.5
Return yards -- SC 51, B 90
Fumbles-lost -- SC 3-2, B 3-1
Penalties-yds lost -- SC 5-45, B 1-5
Rushing -- SC, Kamphenkel 17-55, Ryan Thompson 11-64, Denne 20-74; B, Zauhar 10-63, Mike Weiss 8-36, Zach Toms 6-29
Passing -- SC, Denne 2-4-0-29; B, Zauhar 11-27-1-139, Chris Klabo 0-2-0-0
Receiving -- SC, Johnson 1-23; B, Mike Weiss 6-72, Tony Parrish 1-17, Jason Goerges 2-29, Mueller 2-21
Overall -- Brainerd finishes 7-2.
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