High School Football: Late interception preserves homecoming victory
Warriors 21, Sartell 19
The key: Brainerd's defense forced three turnovers
Subdistrict: Brd 4-2, S 2-4
Overall: Brd 4-3, S 2-5
Next: Brainerd at Bemidji 7 p.m. Thursday.
Trailing by just two points with 3:34 remaining, the Sartell-St. Stephen Sabres appeared to have the Brainerd Warriors backpedaling.
The Sabres were driving for a possible game-winning touchdown. Brainerd's defense, which was stout on a postcard Saturday autumn afternoon, had to make a stop or the Warriors were in danger of not being able to host a first-round section playoff game.
Senior Allen Jevning delivered the game-changing play. Following two Sartell first downs, Jevning made a leaping, falling down interception at the Brainerd 35 with 2:15 left. The Warriors made three first downs to preserve a 21-19 homecoming victory before a packed house at Adamson Field.
"I had a feeling they were going to run the wheel (route)," Jevning said. "They were saving it the whole game. The outside receiver went in, I just stayed outside and waited. Then the second receiver came out toward me. I read it, went up and got it."
The victory lifted Brainerd to 4-3 overall with one regular-season game remaining - Thursday at Bemidji. A win against the Lumberjacks, combined with an Alexandria loss to St. Cloud Tech at St. Cloud State, could vault the Warriors into second place in the section and they could receive a first-round bye. Alexandria lost to Rocori 24-15 Saturday.
"We're very happy (with the win)," Warriors coach Ron Stolski said. "There was a great crowd - it was a great day for Warrior football. Now we've got a short rest, a short time to celebrate and play Bemidji."
Jevning's interception was one of three turnovers by the Warriors' defense. Colton Borg recovered a second-quarter fumble that led to a Brainerd score. Luke Wiskow intercepted Belling on the last play of the third quarter.
"You've got to tip your hat to that kid. He made a fantastic catch over his shoulder in the fourth quarter," Sabres coach Scott Hentges said of Jevning.
Brainerd restricted the Sabres to 249 total yards, 108 in the first half. Sartell gained just 64 yards rushing the entire game. Quarterback Chris Belling completed 18 of 30 passes for 185 yards. Brainerd's defense gave the offense prime field position much of the afternoon.
"The defense really rose," Stolski said. "That last play by Allen Jevning is an example of the kind of athlete he is because he had gotten beat on the (pass) play earlier."
Failed 2-point conversions in the first and third quarters came back to haunt the Sabres.
"Unfortunately our soccer player kicker broke his leg in practice Monday," Hentges said, "so we were messing around with different things throughout the week. We scored enough touchdowns - we just didn't get the extra points."
Brainerd's offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage. It enabled running backs Jevning and Rahn to flourish. Jevning finished with 33 carries for 140 yards and a score. Rahn barrelled his way to 125 yards on 27 attempts and a score.
"The offensive line had a great game," Jevning said. "They were firing off, getting blocks, opening up holes. They made it easy for Mitch and I."
"They had 9-10 players in the box," Stolski said of Sartell. "I thought the offensive line and the running backs were something special."
After keeping Brainerd off the scoreboard following the Warriors' game-opening 20-play, 77-yard drive, Sartell seized a 6-0 lead. Belling tossed a 7-yard TD pass to Ethan Stark who narrowly crossed the goal line before the ball was jarred loose. But the run for two points failed.
Following a 16-yard Sartell punt into a stiff south wind, the Warriors got the ball at the Sabres' 38. On the sixth play of the possession, Jevning ran 16 yards for a score. The first of three David Saxum extra-point kicks made it 7-6 Brainerd.
Borg fell on a Sartell fumble three plays later at the Sartell 35. Seven plays after that, Rahn ran in from three yards out and Brainerd led 14-6 with 3:51 left until halftime.
In the third quarter, Sartell strung together a an 11-play scoring drive that was assisted by two Warrior penalties. Belling hit Jake Lieberg for a 16-yard score. Wiskow then tackled John Schmidt for a loss on the conversion run and the Sabres trailed 14-12.
The Warriors immediately responded on the next possession. Rahn ripped off a 24-yard gain on the second play and quarterback Hanson Devine finished the drive with a 3-yard TD toss to Tristan Brecht for a 21-12 edge with 3:14 left in the third.
Wiskow's interception thwarted the subsequent Sartell series but the Sabres recovered a Brainerd fumble on the next drive at the Warriors' 29. Schmidt's 4-yard TD run preceded Jordan Och's extra-point kick that was the final score in the North Central Red Subdistrict and Section 8-5A game.
Brainerd finished with 325 total yards to the Sabres' 249. The Warriors ran 75 plays from scrimmage to Sartell's 59.
"This was a big game for us," Jevning said. "We know that we have the potential to be a great team - we just have to find that team. I think we're coming around."
Sartell 6 0 6 7 - 19
Brainerd 0 14 7 0 - 21
S-Ethan Stark 7 pass from Chris Belling (run fails) 1:16
Brd-Allen Jevning 16 run (David Saxum kick) 6:48
Brd-Mitchell Rahn 3 run (Saxum kick) 3:51
S-Jake Lieberg 16 pass from Chris Belling (run fails) 5:28
Brd-Tristan Brecht 3 pass from Hanson Devine (Saxum kick) 3:14
S-John Schmidt 4 run (Jordan Och kick) 7:57
First downs: Brd 24, S 17
Rushes-yards: Brd 65-272, S 29-64
Pass comp-att-int-yds: Brd 5-10-1-53, S 18-30-2-185
Total offense: Brd 325, S 249
Punts-avg: Brd 3-34.7, S 1-16.0
Return yards: Brd 64, S 49
Fumbles-lost: Brd 1-1, S 1-1
Penalties-yds lost: Brd 4-50, S 4-30
Rushing: Brd-Hanson Devine 3-7, Mitchell Rahn 27-125, Allen Jevning 33-140, Tristan Brecht 2-0; S-Chris Belling 3-9, John Schmidt 24-58
Passing: Brd-Hanson Devine 5-10-1-53; S-Chris Belling 18-30-2-185
Receiving: Brd-Chris Pederson 1-19, Allen Jevning 2-16, Will Peabody 1-15, Tristan Brecht 1-3; S-Jake Lieberg 6-69, Ethan Stark 9-85
For more photos go to goo.gl/pJDSEG