The Brainerd Warriors and Alexandria Cardinals annually have two of the top football programs in the Central Lakes Conference and in the state.
The matchup takes on added significance 7 p.m. Friday when the teams collide at Adamson Field for the Section 8, Class 5A championship.
Unbeaten and fourth-ranked Brainerd (10-0) is the No. 1 seed in the section. Tenth-ranked Alexandria (9-1) is the No. 2 seed. The Cardinals have won eight straight games since a 27-14 loss to the Warriors in the second game of the regular season.
"Here we go again," Alexandria head coach Dennis Kalpin said. "We've had a rivalry over the years. I think it's been a good, healthy rivalry. The two coaching staffs know each other and have gone against each other. I think the kids have fun playing this game, too.
"It's that time of year, and Brainerd and Alexandria will get together again. It should be interesting. We're just glad to be there."
Defending section champion Alexandria stunned Cretin-Derham Hall in last year's state quarterfinals before losing to eventual state runner-up Blaine.
"They've got a lot of tournament experience," Warriors head coach Ron Stolski said. "They have a lot of kids who have played in these kinds of games before. We have it, although last year was unusual for us.
"Both teams know how to prepare for this game. That's real important."
In the regular-season game, Brainerd's defense surrendered only 177 yards and forced the Cardinals to turn the ball over five times. The Warriors built a 21-7 halftime edge and led by 20 after three quarters.
Offensively, Warriors quarterback Chris Klabo rushed for 141 yards and a touchdown. Halfback Luke Furda added 91 yards and two short scores.
"I think we've improved quite a bit, but looking at the video, Brainerd has too," Kalpin said. "It should be quite a game.
"We had a lot of first-year players in that game. ... I hope we've improved enough to make a game of it this time."
Running primarily out of the shotgun this season, Brainerd has averaged 28 points and 325 yards. It has featured a diverse attack, with Klabo responsible for more than 1,700 total yards. He has rushed for 1,040 and nine touchdowns and has thrown for 692 and 12 scores.
Furda has contributed 895 yards and nine touchdowns. Wide receiver Justin Mueller has been a big-play threat with 438 yards and eight scores.
Defensively, the Warriors have played valiantly in a 3-5 alignment, giving up just 8.6 points and 206 yards.
Linebackers Fred Weiss and Chad Weiss have spearheaded the defense. Fred has 166 tackles followed by Chad with 152. Free safety Jake Phillips has 124 tackles, linebacker Brandon Kraemer 107 and linebacker Andy Pickar 99.
In a 28-7 semifinal victory over Cambridge, Fred Weiss made 26 tackles, Chad Weiss 20 and Phillips 19.
Alexandria dismantled Duluth East 52-6 in last week's other semifinal as quarterback Dan Einerson passed for 156 yards and two touchdowns. Drew Salmi and Tom Steidl each scored two touchdowns for the Cardinals.
"They're very dangerous," Stolski said. "They have a good passing game. Einerson throws to one of the better receivers that we see in (Kyle) Gearman. Einerson is probably the best passer we've seen. They're perhaps the best offensive team we've seen.
"They're just a very good football team, which we've come to expect from Alexandria."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.