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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Homecoming again a gala event

Brainerd head coach Ron Stolski encouraged his team from the sidelines during th

Even though it was overcast and drizzly the conditions Saturday couldn’t dampen Brainerd High School’s homecoming.

Saturday’s festivities  in 60-degree weather included a 5-kilometer walk/run, parade, youth football games on adjacent practice fields, student dance, Brainerd Sports Boosters Club social and a golf tournament.

A 30-0 victory over St. Cloud Apollo had everyone smiling.

“This community really has, I think, something special that you don’t find everywhere you go,” first-year activities director Charlie Campbell said. “We had an amazing pep assembly on Friday. The gym was full of blue and white. There were not piles of kids trying to make it out the doors before we could usher them in. They wanted to stay, they wanted to be part of it.

“Really, it’s a special feeling. To walk through the parade and see the streets lined with blue and white, the kids and the community, it’s a pretty neat experience. I feel privileged to be part of it.”

It was the fifth year the homecoming game was played on a Saturday afternoon instead of the traditional Friday game under the lights.

“I’ve got a special place for Saturday afternoon games, being a college football player, that’s when we always played our games (at Hamline),” Campbell said. “To play on a Saturday afternoon that’s neat but to have the atmosphere, tents, vendors, food, the smell of the burgers, the grills, it’s a really neat environment.

“The weather, it was a nuisance, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker so people hung around and made the best of it.”

So did the players. 

“It was a great experience,” linebacker Rob Wanous said. “The pepfest was one of the best. Too finish it off with a big win, it was great.”

“It definitely has a different meaning, being a senior you really take a lot of things in,” quarterback Mitch McLain said. “The Superfans did a great job, everyone did that was involved. There were a lot of people here for it raining ... I was really impressed with the people that came out.”

“It was pretty cool, being my senior year and everything,” lineman Caleb Tautges said. “(Assistant) coach Ramey says it all leads up to the big game. We have one focus at the end and that’s the game.”

Halftime pep talk

The Warriors got off to a slow start against winless Apollo. Brainerd didn’t score until midway through the second quarter.

“Coming in we weren’t expecting the best team to play against, even though Apollo, they’re going to be a good club,” McLain said. “They’ve got a lot of young kids.

“After the first half we got up in the locker room and I kind of took coach Stolski’s (thunder) a little bit. I kind of went off on the guys, nothing too bad though. 

“We made a promise to each other. The promise was we weren’t going to quit on each other on any play — ever. It’s the same promise we made last year. I think the guys accepted it and we came out and played a better second half.”

Dominant defense

Brainerd allowed just three first downs, 44 total yards and didn’t allow Apollo into Warrior territory. It was the Warriors’ first shutout in 26 games since beating Apollo 53-0 in the 2009 homecoming game.

“We were just relentless,” said Tautges, who saw occasional action on the defensive side of the ball. “(Assistant) coach (Jason) Freed always says ‘11 men to the ball arriving in bad humor.’ I guess that’s what we did today.

“Everybody was just focused, everybody just wanted to make a big stop. The mentality of the defense was a pretty aggressive one.”

MIKE BIALKA may be reached at mike.bialka@ or at 855-5861.