Chris Klabo went from participating in 28 plays as a junior to being one of the most complete quarterbacks in Brainerd Warriors football history.
The 2002 season was a breakout year for the 6-foot, 187-pound senior. He rushed for a team-high 1,052 yards and nine touchdowns. He threw for 865 yards and 16 scores and punted for a 38.5 average. Klabo had four punts of at least 52 yards.
He was at his best in the last two playoff games. Against Cambridge-Isanti in the section semifinals, he rushed for 148 yards and three TDs. Against Alexandria in the final, he passed for four TDs and punted for a 43.4 average, helping Brainerd score 21 unanswered points after falling behind 28-0.
"I think the final game was exemplary of his season," Warriors coach Ron Stolski said. "He had that inner toughness and drive to make plays. Of course, we had some good catches, but the ball was on the money on those throws."
Sport -- Football
Position -- Quarterback/punter
Year -- Senior
Age -- 17
Height -- 6-foot
Weight -- 187
Other sports -- Baseball
Grade-point average -- 3.8
Memorable sports achievement -- Beating Moorhead 8-7 in overtime this fall
Favorite subject -- History
Favorite food -- Seafood
Favorite movie -- "Braveheart"
Hobbies -- Hunting, snowmobiling
Future plans -- Attend college, possibly major in pre-med
Athlete he admires -- Former Warriors Kyle Berg and Mike Weiss
Parents -- Gordie and Carol Klabo
Klabo bided his time in 2001 behind Mike Zauhar, an all-conference quarterback.
"He never complained, never said, 'Maybe I should try playing somewhere else,'" Stolski said. "He was patient and worked hard in practice when called on.
"As a junior varsity player I could see this was a guy who could run and could throw the long ball. He improved with maturity.
"He accepted the role, that, 'Now, it's my time.' He went to a quarterback camp in Blaine. He was willing to do things at our summer camp. He was in the weight room all winter. ... Sometimes another good player is in front of you. An opportunity came for Chris, and he made the most of it."
Klabo distributes credit for his improvement where it is due.
"Zauhar was an outstanding quarterback," Klabo said. "In practice I watched him the whole time, trying to pick up little things he did. He helped me a lot."
Klabo benefited from an offensive line that started Alex Hondl at center, Jake Thesing and Derek Franz at guard, Chris Miller and Scott Johnson at tackle and Justin Huether at tight end.
"When we ran counters, they knew where they were supposed to be," Klabo said. "They were pretty fast. The holes were there."
The line and receivers like Justin Mueller resulted in Klabo's ability to shine in the air.
"If they saw a blitz coming through the middle I knew they would probably pick up the blitzers," Klabo said. "They gave me a lot of time back there.
"Mueller pretty much catches anything. Toward the end of the season a lot of other receivers were doing some pretty good things, Tom Zelinske, Brady Prince, Kevin Mertens. They pretty much would catch anything close. I would just throw it up."
Klabo also made a contribution as a punter. He complimented long snapper Chad Weiss for his role on the punt team.
"He got the ball back there in a hurry, and where it needed to be," Klabo said. "And, the line did a good job of blocking everyone. That gave me a lot of time to focus on punting. I just kicked it as hard as I could."
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