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SEMIPRO FOOTBALL: Lumberjacks prepping for championship run

The Brainerd Lumberjacks are on a mission.

Following a 2012 season that culminated with a 7-4 record and a 27-0 loss to the Minnesota Sting in the Midwest Premier Football League championship game, the Lumberjacks will kick off their season May 4 against the Willmar Broncos at Harvey Shew Field in Brainerd.

Lumberjacks head coach J.J. Kern is determined to end the team’s two-year championship drought after Brainerd won back-to-back Semipro Football League championships in 2009 and 2010.

“We have 15 players joining us that have played at the Division II level or beyond,” Kern said.

Of these 15 players, two new offensive lineman will join the roster — 6-6 Dwayne Frelot and 6-3 Casey Gibson.

“They were very good college players and they will really help us,” said Kern.

The Jacks have also bolstered their secondary by adding former Wyoming safety Seth Gilkey and brother Dontae Mathis, who will play cornerback.

“Both of those guys are big, physical defensive backs and we’re excited to have them,” said Kern.

The running game will most likely be led by newcomer James Macey, an all-conference player during his tenure at Division II Dickinson State. Macey joined the team for the Mojo Hydrate-Elite Bowl last October and he rushed for 165 yards and a touchdown in a 34-14 win over the Minnesota Silverbacks.

2013 also will mark a departure for the Lumberjacks, as it will be the last season for leading receiver Ra Ra Jones before he moves on to the collegiate level.

“Ra Ra’s a game changer, he’s been working to get bigger, faster, and stronger. The Sky is the limit for the kid,” Kern said of the 6-4 pass-catcher.

Titus Cole will return to anchor the defensive line while Wade Stier will look to help the Jacks in all facets of the offense.

“We’re glad to have Wade back, as he plays every skill position on the field,” Kern said.

The elephant in the room for Brainerd is the quarterback position. The Lumberjacks employed several quarterbacks in 2012 and will look for more stability at that position.

Mark Hummell, Mo Jones, and newcomer Delector Swanigan Jr. will compete for the starting job.

“There’s no front-runner, they’re just going to compete,” Kern said.

The playoffs will begin July 13 after an eight-game regular season.

“Coming into the year, we’re just really excited. Everybody’s working so much harder. We are doing everything we can to get back to the point of being able to bring home a championship,” Kern said.