Unfortunately, only the state champion wins its last game.
One of the finest seasons in Brainerd High School football history came to a devastating halt Friday as Alexandria defeated the Warriors 31-28 in the Section 8, Class 5A championship game at Adamson Field.
The curtain closed on a season in which Brainerd went unbeaten in the regular season for the first time since 1938 and won the Central Lakes Conference title. Brainerd earned the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and the No. 4 spot in the final Associated Press 5A rankings.
"It was a fabulous year, from a bunch of kids ... everybody said it more than I did, that, 'Boy, this is a real surprise," Warriors coach Ron Stolski said. "Well, this is a great bunch of kids. They might deserve a better fate but you've got to play four quarters."
Senior quarterback Chris Klabo was proud of what the Warriors accomplished.
"Honestly, everyone thought coming into this year we weren't going to be anything because we lost so many players," Klabo said. "I'm so proud of this team. We came so far. We got the undefeated season, we got the conference championship. We can't tilt our heads. We had a good year."
Senior free safety Jake Phillips concurred.
"There are good memories," Phillips said. "You can't have too many regrets about this year. Going undefeated for the first time in how long? That's special. We will always have that, and I think everybody knows that, too. I know we would love to be playing Cretin-Derham Hall or Washburn next (Friday), but you've got to take what you get."
Fake punt fails
One of the game's key plays was the Warriors' fake punt on fourth and six from their 24 on the second play of the second quarter and trailing 21-0.
Instead of snapping the ball to Klabo, who also punts, it was hiked to Luke Furda who was stymied after a 1-yard gain.
"Whether it worked or not, I wasn't even emotional about that," Stolski said. "I knew we had to get something going. I know it wasn't a good place for it, but we needed to get something going and we needed to show the kids we were going to play to win."
Klabo helped Brainerd get back in the game by completing 8 of 17 passes for 173 yards and four touchdowns.
"We found a formation that worked pretty good," Klabo said. "We went to the passing game and came back. You've got to tip your hats to (Alexandria). They played a good game. We tried."
Alexandria fullback Tom Steidl carried the ball 31 times for 154 yards and two scores. Running mate Jason Erickson added 92 yards, 75 on a touchdown burst.
Brainerd's Luke Furda rushed for 99 yards, finishing the season six shy of 1,000.
The final score doesn't reflect how gallantly Brainerd played defense in the second half.
After surrendering 28 points and 218 yards in the second half, the Warriors allowed only three points and 129 yards in the second.
Fred and Chad Weiss had quarterback sacks, Darin Eller and Fred Weiss knocked down passes and Andy Pickar had a tackle for a loss.
"We didn't want our season to end," Phillips said. "Everybody stepped up. We just came up a couple plays short."
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