SEMIPRO FOOTBALL: Lumberjacks ready for a blockbuster
J.J. Kern is billing Saturday’s regular season final as one of the biggest in the Brainerd Lumberjack’s history.
It will pit the 7-2 Brainerd Lumberjacks against the 8-1 Minnesota Sting 4 p.m. at Harvey Shew Field in Brainerd.
A Lumberjacks’ victory would create a three-way tie for first place in the Midwest Premier Football League with the Sting and Twin Cities Titans. All three of those teams are already locked into the four-team postseason with the Granite City Renegades claiming the No. 4 seed. The uncertainty is which seed the other three teams will land.
“This is as big of a game and as confusing to put a game plan together as I have been involved with,” said Kern. “Throw in all the off-the-field attractions we have going on with Chuck Foreman coming to town and it’s crazy.
“It’s tricky knowing that when you game plan for these guys you don’t want to show them too much. I mean you want to win, but at the same time we could be playing this same team in the first round of the playoffs. That makes it very difficult as to what things we show them and what things we hold in reserve for the playoffs.”
The Lumberjacks will employ different formations to see how the Sting react to them, but offensive production may not be the issue for Brainerd. Stopping the high-scoring Sting will be priority No. 1.
Last week, the Sting beat the Twin City Rhinos 42-0. They downed the Renegades 49-14. On June 14, they blew out the Lumberjacks 55-20. The Sting has outscored its nine opponents 293-116.
With the Sting averaging 32.5 points a game against league opponents and the Lumberjacks holding teams to 19.9 points per game, something will have to give.
“They have a phenomenal running back,” said Kern. “He has more than 1,000 yards rushing already. He is a very high level back. Their quarterback is 6-3 with a strong arm and they have a receiver that’s 6-3 and 210 pounds. That’s three big threats. They are basically the Dallas Cowboys of the ‘90s. They also have a very good offensive line.”
Kern said the team travels with 63 players with more on the roster. The Sting practice twice a week and year-round in the metro area.
“With that being said, we can beat these guys,” Kern said. “With all those things, we can beat them because we have some ball players. You can only put 11 guys on the field at once. Our guys are going to be prepared and ready to go.
“We’ve always had a pretty confident group, but it’s been a struggle these last few weeks making sure our guys weren’t looking ahead to this game. Now we’re here and I don’t have to tell the guys anything. They will be ready. We’ve been looking forward to this game for a month.”
Kern wasn’t sure how the playoff seeding will fall into place if the Lumberjacks won. The top two seeds get first round home games. The top team gets home field throughout the playoffs.
A Brainerd loss would likely give them the No. 3 seed and a road game to the Twin Cities Titans.
Off the field, former Minnesota Vikings running back Chuck Foreman will be signing autographs from 3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Foreman was previously scheduled for the Lumberjack’s home opener, but a conflict caused the move to Saturday.
“The fact that things had to change due to scheduling conflicts and we were still able to make this work is exciting,” said Kern. “It was nerve-wracking whether we were going to be able to make this work, but I’m glad it’s going to happen.”
The first 50 children in attendance will receive a pop from Sundrop, an 8x10 picture of Foreman and admission into the game for $10.
There will also be a pizza-eating contest at halftime sponsored by Jimmy’s Pizza.