The No. 1 seed (St. Cloud Tech) and the No. 2 seed (Brainerd).
The fourth-ranked team (Tech) and the ninth-ranked team (Brainerd) in Class 5A.
The highest-scoring team in the Central Lakes Conference (Brainerd, 329 points) and the stingiest defense in the CLC (Tech, 91 points allowed).
It can't get much better for a section final when the Tigers and Warriors meet for the Section 8-5A championship Saturday night at St. Cloud State University.
Both have not lost since meeting in the season opener, a 14-13 Tech victory at Clark Field. Tech completed an unbeaten regular season, secured a first-round playoff bye and stampeded Buffalo 27-0 in the semifinals. Brainerd won seven straight to end the regular season and has defeated Elk River (30-8) and Alexandria (27-21) in the playoffs.
The championship will be decided on the artificial surface at Husky Stadium. The multi-purpose facility seats 4,198 fans, overlooks the Mississippi River and features a state-of-the-art synthetic playing surface.
Warriors coach Ron Stolski said the SCSU turf is much better than the artificial surfaces Brainerd has played on in the past.
"This is kind of outdoor stadium turf," he said. "It's very much like grass, except you don't create divots and it doesn't clump up. It's the turf of the 21st century. The old turf was simply carpet laid on tar. This is not carpet. It doesn't require different shoes like the old turf.
"It's the last game of three section championship games. The venue is beautiful. I've been there for the last two (high school) all-star games. It's been a great move. I'm glad we're going there to play."
So is Tech coach Gregg Martig.
"There should be a great crowd," he said. "It should be a tremendous setting for fans who haven't been to SCSU.
"I'm a big fan of turf this time of year. You don't have to worry about the field freezing, you don't have to worry about the footing. It's just a great environment."
The Warriors will be without their leading rusher, Tyler Jensen, who suffered a serious head injury in the semifinals. Jensen was released from North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale on Thursday.
Stolski said it took the team a few days to regain its composure following the traumatic injury.
"Primarily, because of Tyler's occurrence, but I also think we had just played a number of games (4) in a short period of time (16 days). We weren't banged up as much as we were weary, so we backed off in practice Monday and Tuesday, in terms of the length of time.
"I think our spirit is quite good partly because the news from Tyler, at least his progress, seems to be good. Certainly everybody is feeling some relief."
Opponents haven't gotten any relief against Brainerd's defense, which is yielding just 11.6 points and 202.5 yards. The Warriors have forced 22 turnovers, including 15 interceptions, four each by Desmond Janousek and Jed Magstadt.
The Warriors' offense is rolling, averaging 32.9 points and 361.8 yards. Quarterback Nate Schaefbauer has thrown for 1,530 yards and 11 scores. The running game has come alive in the last three games, averaging 260 yards.
Tech's defense has given up just 9.1 points and 191.4 yards. It has recorded 24 quarterback sacks and has intercepted 17 passes. Starting defensive backs John Denne (out 7 weeks) and Otis Morris (6) returned from injuries against Buffalo.
Tigers quarterback Adam Johnson has thrown for an even 1,000 yards and 13 TDs with four interceptions. Tailback Taylor Johnson, all 146 pounds of him, has rushed for 1,012 yards and eight scores.
Wide receiver Collin Stinogel has 29 receptions for 405 yards and three TDs. He also starts at defensive back, punts and returns kicks. Charlie Klaverkamp has kicked nine field goals and 25 of 26 extra points.
"They have an outstanding defense," Stolski said, "and outstanding special teams. They have a real weapon in Klaverkamp. Stinogel is really a good athlete. It should be a game worthy of a section championship."
Mike Bialka may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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