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Semipro football: Lumberjacks ready to build on big win

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sports Brainerd, 56401
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

The Brainerd Lumberjacks may have two opponents Saturday.

One week after knocking off the nation’s third-ranked Twin Cities Titans, the Brainerd Lumberjacks will battle the Granite City Renegades and possibly a bit of an emotional let down.

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The Lumberjacks avenged a May 12 42-7 loss by knocking off the previously unbeaten Titans 13-12 Saturday in Brainerd. That coupled with a big game July 21st against the once-beaten Minnesota Sting to end the regular season could have the Lumberjacks reminiscing about last week or looking ahead instead of concentrating on the Renegades. Granite City will look to play spoiler 4 p.m. Saturday at Shew Field at Franklin Arts Center in Brainerd.

The Renegades are 3-4 this season. One of those losses was a 27-12 defeat by the Lumberjacks on May 19 in St. Cloud.

“They do have former Lumberjacks Geoff Niemi who is from St. Cloud and played at St. Cloud State University,” said Lumberjacks head coach J.J. Kern. “He is a very fast receiver and a dynamic kick returner. He is their biggest weapon. He can break it at any time.

“I think our front line, both offensive and defensive, is where we can take advantage of them. If we do that it could really help us with taking out their skill position players. That’s our biggest advantage. We have good skill players, too, but when it’s hot, like it is right now, having the guys on the front line is huge.”

St. Cloud’s Tyler Zelinski is completing 44 percent of his passes at 12.9 yarda per completion for the Renegades. He’s thrown six touchdowns and five interceptions. Adam Jendro and Anthony Carpentar lead the Renegades in rushing.

“We’re still the Lumberjacks defense,” Kern said. “A couple of weeks ago we had a shutout. Last week, we gave up 12 quick points. Our defense has scored six or seven touchdowns this year. It’s a strength still and our offense is improving weekly. A lot can be said by losing to the Titans 42-7 and then five weeks later beating them 13-12. We’re getting better.”

The Lumberjacks sit third in the Midwest Premier Football League standings with a 5-2 record. They are a game behind The Titans and Sting, who play each other Saturday. The Lumberjacks close the season with the Sting. It will also be the rescheduled appearance of former Minnesota Viking Chuck Foreman.

“That game is going to be very important and we wanted to bring him in for that game to make it an even big game,” said Kern. “This is all going to come right down to the end. That final regular season game could more than likely determine a lot of things concerning home field advantage for the playoffs. We’re coming off a really exciting win. That victory made our league a lot closer. Right now the Titans and Sting each have one loss and we’re right behind them with two losses. If we win this one (Saturday) we’re right in there.”

In order to get Saturday’s win, the Lumberjacks will have to do it with out starting quarterback Jackson Illies. He hurt his shoulder last week. Wade Steier will fill in for Illies.

“We’re going to give all the reps to Wade,” Kern said. “We’ve been fortunate in that we have two quarterbacks who are equal in ability. They are just different style quarterbacks. We’re going into Saturday with a backup. By getting Wade some playing time this will help us come playoff time.”

JEREMY MILLSOP, sports writer, may be reached at 855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop

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