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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Brainerd hopes home field is playoff advantage

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One of Ron Stolski’s concerns when Brainerd was placed in Class 6A this season was the Warriors might not be awarded a home playoff game, which had become almost a tradition when Brainerd was in Class 5A.

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The head coach’s concern was valid since Brainerd is the only outstate school in the state’s largest class, which consists of just 32 teams. Brainerd would be playing in a section with seven metro schools, none of whom the Warriors would play in the regular season. How do you seed a team that none of the section’s other schools have played?

Stolski’s concern was alleviated Oct. 18 when Brainerd (6-2) was seeded fourth, earning the right to host No. 5 Blaine (5-3) Friday night.

“I think we were treated very fairly by the coaches down there in terms of a face-to-face seeding process, which by its nature could create some problems,” Stolski said, “but I think it was a fair process. We’re really happy to have been able to get a home game.”

Blaine coach Tom Develice, in his first season as the Bengals’ head coach, was fine with the No. 5 seed.

“I think the top three in our section (Maple Grove, Osseo, Champlin Park) are deserving of being 1-2-3,” he said. “Us and Brainerd could be a flip of the coin in terms of where we sat. We’re happy with No. 5, that’s fine. We had one more loss than Brainerd did. I’m OK with that.”

Develice is also OK with playing outside on grass at Adamson Field. Unlike many metro schools, Blaine does not have artificial turf.

“We actually played the majority of our games on grass,” he said. “We only had two of them on turf. Our stadium is a grass stadium yet.”

Friday’s weather could be a factor in attracting a crowd and could neutralize home-field advantage. According to weather.com, Friday night’s projected low is expected to be 23 degrees with an 8 mph wind and no precipitation.

“The kids are really excited about (the playoffs),” Stolski said. “It’s a different (playoff) scenario. I think the balance of 6A football, by the nature of the tournament, that (playoff excitement is) created already.

“It will be a new experience for us, a new experience for our fans. We think that’s a good thing.”

It will be a new experience for Brainerd to play Blaine since the teams have never met. The Bengals compiled a 5-3 record in the Northwest Suburban Conference and played six schools in the section. Its only losses were to Osseo (35-14), Maple Grove (20-6) and Champlin Park (28-27). Unbeaten Maple Grove is ranked sixth in the final 6A poll, Osseo (5-3) is ranked 10th.

Offensively, the Bengals revolve around quarterback Alex Copa and running back Kunle Ayinde.

Copa has completed 104 of 179 attempts (58 percent) for 1,231 yards and 13 TDs. He has thrown 10 interceptions, but eight of those were in two games. Copa has rushed for 528 yards and nine TDs.

Ayinde has run for 556 yards and eight scores and has caught 20 passes for 111 yards and two TDs.

Tyler Drewlo and Naji El-Araby each have 20 catches, a combined 377 yards and three scores. Connor Spurbeck and Joe Robel have combined for 25 catches, 486 yards and three TDs.

“This summer, we happened to work a lot with our quarterbacks and receivers, and that’s probably why our passing game has been more successful this year because they worked together,” Develice said.

The Bengals have been stout defensively, allowing 15.8 points and 257 yards a game with 15 sacks.

“I would say our biggest strength is our defense,” Develice said. “We have some guys returning there, as well as our better team speed is on defense.”

Brainerd’s running game might be a test for the Bengals’ defense. Conor Gessell is 41 yards shy of 1,000 with 12 touchdowns and a 6.7 average per carry. Quarterback Luke Boran has added 655 yards and eight TDs. Running back Logan Davis has gained 426 yards with six scores.

Boran has thrown for 684 yards and six TDs. Leading receivers have been Cole Smith (17 catches, 231 yards, two TDs), Isaiah Smith (14-206-2) and Grant Reuer (11-122-1).

Defensively, the Warriors have given up an average of 21.8 points and 269.4 yards. They have recorded 17 turnovers, with Reuer intercepting five passes.

“I have a lot of faith in both of our coordinators,” Stolski said. “Jason Freed and his group have done a great job of game-planning, as have (offensive coordinators) Troy Nelson and Jeff Ramey. We’ll have a plan.”

MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.

Lineups

Brainerd Warriors (6-2)

OFFENSE

QB: 11-Luke Boran, 15-Logan McElfresh, 12-Thomas Stoxen, 37-Luke Patron

RB: 22-Conor Gessell, 23-Logan Davis, 24-Matt Ramerth, 26-Matt Sucik

WR: 2-Isaiah Smith, 7-Grant Reuer, 81-Quinn McElfresh

WR: 31-Cole Smith, 8-Logan Jones, 18-Geoff Sheflo

TE: 15-Logan McElfresh, 54-Alex Mimmack

C: 64-Billy Desrocher

G: 63-Jon Asprey, 54-Alex Mimmack, 61-Jon Bostrom, 77-Zach Thomas

T: 67-Alex DeRosier, 68/87-Alex Evanson, 75-James Weiss, 63-Anthony Cory

DEFENSE

Line: 55-Jace Engelmann, 88-Chris Bowman, 96-Chris Laber, 54-Alex Mimmack, 94-Austin Mau, 78-Sam Adams, 66-Zach Hatcher

OLB: 36-T.J. Graumann, 33-Jake Donnay, 33-Cole DeRosier, 27-Troy Lenz

ILB: 34/52-Slade Simpson, 53-Sam Kelash, 47-Winston Fenske, 41-Taylor Streiff

CB: 7-Grant Reuer, 12-Thomas Stoxen, 31-Cole Smith, 17-Beau Janousek

S: 31-Cole Smith, 16-Trevor Maier

SPECIAL TEAMS

Punter: 15-Logan McElfresh

Kicker: 15-Logan McElfresh

Punt return: 31-Cole Smith, 2-Isaiah Smith

Kickoff return: 7-Grant Reuer, 31-Cole Smith

Long snap: 33-Jake Donnay, 17-Beau Janousek

Holder: 11-Luke Boran, 12-Thomas Stoxen

Blaine Bengals (5-3)

OFFENSE

C: 77-Alec Zaver

LG: 54-Tyler VanBramer

RG: 56-Brandon Vee

LT: Michael Sternal

RT: Jake Hruska

WR: 2-Tyler Drewlo

WR: 4-Joe Robel

WR: 5-Naji Al-Araby

WR: 17-Connor Spurbeck

RB: 15-Kunle Ayinde

QB: 7-Alex Copa

DEFENSE

E: 68-Brandon Schumacher

NG: 99-Jake Ringwelski

E: 73-Josh Lamkin

LB: 59-Mandray Stewart

LB: 9-Stephen Newberger

LB: 52-Logan Elton

LB: 57-Caleb Butler

LCB: 4-Joe Robel

RCB: 13-Riley Hedstrom

FS: 22-Sam Kriegler

SS: 26-Ryan Grahek

SPECIAL TEAMS

Punter: 7-Alex Copa, 96-Andrew Jacobs

Kicker: 53-Zacc Strand, 91-Zach Wright

Kickoff return: 4-Joe Robel, 15-Kunle Ayinde

Punt return: 4-Joe Robel

Warriors regular season

Aug 31, Rocori, LOST 48-28

Sept 7, St. Cloud Tech, WON 42-28

Sept 14, at Willmar, WON 21-14

Sept 21, Bemidji, WON 40-23

Sept 28, at St. Cloud Apollo WON 28-14

Oct 6, St. Michael-Albertville Lost 31-20

Oct 12, at Grand Rapids WON 27-9

Oct 17, at Alexandria WON 42-7

Section 5-6A playoffs

7 p.m. Games

No. 5 Blaine at No. 4 Brainerd

No. 8 Coon Rapids at No. 1 Maple Grove

No. 7 Anoka at No. 2 Osseo

No. 6 Centennial at No. 3 Champlin Park

Nov. 2 second round

Four winners from Section 5 vs. four winners from Section 6

State quarterfinals

Nov 8: At Metrodome 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Nov. 9: At Metrodome 5 and 8 p.m.

State semifinals

Nov. 15: At Metrodome 7 p.m.

Nov. 16: At Metrodome 7 p.m.

Class 6A state championship

Nov. 23: At Metrodome 7 p.m.

Central Lakes Conference

FINAL Conf All

Rocori 5-1 5-3

Fergus Falls 4-1 5-3

Brainerd 4-1 6-2

Sartell 3-2 6-2

Willmar 3-3 4-4

St. Cloud Apollo 3-4 3-5

St. Cloud Tech 2-4 3-5

Alexandria 1-5 1-7

Sauk Rapids 1-5 1-7

Oct. 17 results

Brainerd 42, Alexandria 7

Rocori 26, Tech 13

Apollo 27, Fergus Falls 20

Willmar 24, Sauk Rapids 14

Non-conference

Sartell 35, Bemidji 24

Section 5-6A

FINAL Sect All

Maple Grove 6-0 8-0

Osseo 1-2 5-3

Champlin Park 4-1 5-3

Brainerd 0-0 6-2

Blaine 3-3 5-3

Centennial 3-3 3-5

Anoka 1-4 3-5

Coon Rapids 0-5 0-8

Note: Osseo forfeited wins to Maple Grove and Centennial for use of ineligible player.

Oct. 17 results

Brainerd 42, Alexandria 7

Maple Grove 17, Champlin Park 12

Totino Grace 14, Osseo 7

Blaine 28, Anoka 6

Centennial 41, Coon Rapids 14

Warriors statistics

EIGHT GAMES

RUSHING Att Yds Avg TD

Conor Gessell 143 959 6.7 12

Luke Boran 123 655 5.3 8

Logan Davis 107 426 4.0 6

Matt Ramerth 8 32 4.0 0

Ma. Severson 6 31 5.2 0

Lo. McElfresh 3 20 6.7 1

Thomas Stoxen 3 14 4.7 0

Evan Brecht 1 11 11.0 0

Matt Sucik 3 9 3.0 0

PASSING Com Att Yds TD

Luke Boran 55 101 684 6

Logan Davis 1 1 30 0

Thomas Stoxen 2 4 25 0

Lo. McElfresh 0 2 0 0

RECEIVING No Yds Avg TD

Cole Smith 17 231 13.6 2

Isaiah Smith 14 206 14.7 2

Grant Reuer 11 122 11.1 1

Conor Gessell 5 95 19.0 1

Logan Davis 8 72 9.0 0

Logan Jones 3 32 10.7 0

Q. McElfresh 1 13 13.0 0

SCORING TD 2PT EPK TP

Conor Gessell 12 2 0 88

Luke Boran 8 0 0 48

Logan Davis 7 0 0 42

Lo. McElfresh 1 0 28 34

Isaiah Smith 2 0 0 12

Grant Reuer 2 0 0 12

Cole Smith 2 0 0 12

Forced fumbles: Simpson 1, Kelash 3, Fenske 2, Reuer 1, Maier 2, Bowman 1, Engelmann 1, Graumann 1, Taylor Scheidenberger 1

Fumble recoveries: Kelash 2, Donnay 1, Cole Smith 1, Simpson 1, Graumann 2, Bowman 1, Fenske 1, Laber 1

Interceptions: Reuer 5, Stoxen 1, Cole Smith 1

Tackles vs. Alexandria: Scheidenberger 19, Graumann 10, Cole Smith 10

Season tackle leaders: Cole Smith 100, Graumann 89, Fenske 83, Scheidenberger 80

Points per-game average: Brainerd 31.0, opposition 21.8

Yards per game average: Brainerd 363.9, opposition 269.4

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