With the wind howling out of the north, gusting to nearly 40 mph, the Brainerd Warriors blew away the Elk River Elks in the opening round of the Section 8-5A football playoffs Tuesday.
The second-seeded Warriors relied on a devastating rushing game and a pesky defense to thump the seventh-seeded Elks 30-8 at Adamson Field.
Brainerd, which scored 22 points in the first 14-plus minutes, hosts Alexandria, a 22-14 winner over Bemidji, in the section semifinals Saturday. No. 4 Buffalo beat No. 5 Moorhead 31-18 in Tuesday's other game and plays at top-seeded St. Cloud Tech in the semifinals.
Cory Olsen of the Elk River Elks grabbed the jersey of Brainerd Warriors senior running back Brandon Julius in a last-ditch effort to stop Julius during the Section 8-Class 5A playoff game against Elk River Tuesday night at Adamson Field. Julius had 16 carries for 100 yards in the Warriors 30-8 victory. Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood » Purchase reprints of this photo.
With the wind limiting the effectiveness of a passing game, the Warriors hammered away on the ground, rushing 56 times for 320 yards, scoring all four of its touchdowns by way of the run.
Tyler Jensen and Colby Ring each scored two touchdowns. Jensen rushed for 117 yards, fullback Brandon Julius added 100 and Ring 63.
"It was the offensive line, probably the most," Julius said of the big rushing night. "If they didn't block we wouldn't be able to do much. It was all them, the other running backs blocking, getting into the holes, and the receivers blocking on the edge. Then it was getting around the edge and going."
Brainerd Warriors senior running back Tyler Jensen took a breather during the Section 8-5A playoff game against Elk River Tuesday night at Adamson Field. Jensen had 18 carries for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the Warriors victory. Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Defensively, the Warriors sacked Elk River quarterback Jack Gavin six times and intercepted him twice. Ring, who doubles as an inside linebacker, tackled fullback Jack Sullivan in the end zone for a safety in the second quarter.
Brainerd limited the Elks to 141 total yards, 45 in the second half. Elk River had just three net yards rushing as 11 running plays were for losses.
"It's another step in the improvement we've been making," Warriors coach Ron Stolski said after his team's eighth straight victory. "We got a couple of big interceptions on defense and a safety.
"Actually, I thought we threw the ball well, in the first quarter especially, with the wind. Elk River was a dangerous team."
Jensen ran for a 28-yard touchdown on Brainerd's first play from scrimmage. He added an 8-yard scoring burst after Ring's safety.
Ring slammed into the end zone from a yard out in the first quarter and tallied on a 2-yard run in the third that ended the scoring.
Ring and Laramie Lucas each had two sacks while Mike Valesano and Bill Sather each had one. Andy Mans and Jed Magstadt intercepted passes, with Mans' pick leading to Ring's first score.
"This week I watched more film than I think I have all year, just preparing for our first playoff game because being a playoff game it's the biggest game of the year," Lucas said. "We realized that their offensive line is used to playing against four-man fronts who are usually bigger and stronger with not so much speed.
Brainerd offensive coordinator Jeff Ramey reacted to the Warriors scoring their final touchdown during the Section 8-5A playoff game against Elk River Tuesday night at Adamson Field. Brainerd won 30-8. Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"We used a lot of our speed and we stunted more than we have all year. I think that was the key to the pressure on the quarterback and in the backfield in general."
Elk River 0 8 0 0 - 8
Brainerd 14 8 8 0 - 30
Brd-Tyler Jensen 28 run (Brian Sexton kick) 10:01
Brd-Colby Ring 1 run (Sexton kick) 3:21
Brd-Safety, fullback tackled in end zone, 11:16
Brd-Jensen 8 run (kick fails) 9:48
ER-Josh Stene 68 pass from Jack Gavin (Michael Hoglund pass from Gavin) 8:55
Brd-Ring 2 run (Scott Ramey pass from Nate Schaefbauer) 5:12
First downs: ER 7, Brd 19
BHS 30, Elk River 8
The key: Brainerd rushed for 320 yards, intercepted two passes and had six quarterback sacks.
Overall: Brd 8-1, ER 1-8
Next: No. 3 Alexandria at No. 2 Brainerd at 2 p.m. Saturday in Section 8-5A semifinals
Rushes-yards: ER 27-3, Brd 56-320
Pass comp-att-int-yds: ER 6-14-2-138, Brd 5-9-0-60
Total offense: ER 141, Brd 380
Fumbles-lost: ER 0-0, Brd 2-1
Penalties-yds lost: ER 4-30, Brd 6-60
Rushing: ER, Matt Sullivan 9-25; Brd, Schaefbauer 11-19, Jensen 18-117, Julius 16-100, Ring 7-63, Turner Johnson 2-16, Nate Smolke 2-5
Passing: ER, Jack Gavin 6-13-2-138, Matt Gandrud 0-1-0-0; Brd, Schaefbauer, Brd 5-9-0-60
Receiving: ER, Stene 3-119; Brd, Bronson Shepherd 4-48, Johnson 1-12
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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