The Alexandria Cardinals and Brainerd Warriors played just two weeks ago in the regular season, with Brainerd winning 33-7.
Neither head coach views that meeting as an advantage, or disadvantage, as the third-seeded Cardinals and No. 2 Warriors prepare to play in the Section 8-5A semifinals Saturday afternoon at Adamson Field.
"Our scouting reports are current, we've got video on them," Alexandria coach Denny Kalpin said. "Brainerd is a very powerful team, they're very physical and a veteran team. I don't think a lot of people realize that. They've got a lot of players back, especially on defense, so they were ready from the get-go.
"We'll see if we can make some adjustments and come up with a better game than the last time we played."
Brainerd linebacker Alex Rahn talked with a teammate on the sideline during the Warriors' 30-8 Section 8-5A playoff victory over Elk River on Tuesday. Brainerd hosts Alexandria in the semifinals at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Brainerd Dispatch/File photo
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Warriors coach Ron Stolski's concern is that players, on either team, might think too much about previous meeting.
"I think it's more of an incentive for Alexandria in a sense that we won the game," he said. "My concern is that our kids will think we had a very good game there, that they don't have to play. That will be a mistake if that's how we approach this game. I don't think we will but kids always surprise me."
Last time the Warriors trailed 7-6 after the opening quarter and scored the game's last 27 points. The Warriors limited Alexandria to 169 total yards, 31 passing, and picked off two passes.
Stolski thought the Warriors were opportunistic in that game.
"It was just one of those nights where we made more plays than they made," he said. "It was a game of a few feet here or there, so our approach is almost like we didn't play them a couple of weeks ago.
"They're a good Alexandria team, like they generally are. We need to continue to play with the same energy and efficiency that we've been playing with because it's playoff time. The consequence of the outcome is different. We don't have another game to look forward to if we don't get this one."
Brainerd is performing about as well as can be at playoff time. Quarterback Nate Schaefbauer has passed for 1,419 yards and 11 touchdowns. The defense has surrendered just 202.8 yards and 10.6 points a game.
Alexandria vs. Warriors
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Adamson Field, Brainerd
What: Section 8-5A semifinals
The series: Brainerd leads 29-20. The Warriors won 33-7 Oct. 12 at Alexandria.
The Warriors' running game has come alive in the last two weeks, gaining 333 yards against Sartell and 320 in the 30-8 playoff victory against Elk River.
"If you want to view the improvement on our team the most marked improvement has been in the offensive line and how hard our backs are running," Stolski said.
On Tuesday, Alexandria was locked up in a battle against No. 6 Bemidji. The Cardinals fell behind 14-0 but rallied for a 22-14 victory. Alexandria totaled 317 yards to the Lumberjacks' 217.
Alexandria running back Jack Trebelhorn rushed for 189 yards, Nate Kelly added 70. Cardinals quarterback Dillon Kelly passed for 16 yards.
The Cardinals are a ball-control team, running behind an offensive line that averages 246 pounds.
"We have tried to throw some, and we've had some success, but the defense dictates what we do so we'll see what happens," Kalpin said. "We have a capable passer. I don't think we have the thrower Brainerd does or the receivers they do but we have some capable players. We will work on it and hope to get more two-dimensional."
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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