High School Football: Geraets, dominant defense propel Warriors to state semifinals
ST. CLOUD—Charlie Geraets rushed his way into the Minnesota State High School League record book.
And Brainerd's defense was almost impenetrable as the Warriors posted a 24-7 victory over the St. Louis Park Orioles in the quarterfinals of the Class 5A state tournament Saturday at Husky Stadium at St. Cloud State University.
Geraets carried the ball 55 times, a single-game MSHSL record, eclipsing the previous mark of 54 set by Trent Chromy of Cambridge-Isanti vs. Becker in 2011. Geraets finished with 265 yards and scored all three Brainerd touchdowns.
"It was a lot of work," Geraets conceded afterward. "A little beat up, but I'm feeling pretty good after the win."
The win propels ninth-ranked Brainerd, which scored the game's last 18 points, to the 5A state semifinals against Owatonna at 7 p.m. Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Tigers pounded Mahtomedi 59-34 in the quarterfinals Saturday at Lakeville North High School.
"It's a great feeling," Geraets said of getting to play in an NFL stadium next weekend. "It's been a dream of mine for a long time and we made it happen."
"It's a dream come true, really, it's a dream come true," Warriors quarterback Joe Stolski said.
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Warriors 24, St. Louis Park 7
- The key: Brainerd scored the game's last 18 points
- Overall: Brd 9-2, StLP finishes 7-4
- Next: Brainerd vs. Owatonna in Class 5A state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, 7 p.m. Saturday.
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"It's going to be amazing," Brainerd wide receiver/defensive back Max Boran said. "It's a brand new stadium. It's going to fun."
After surrendering a modest 157 yards and seven points in the first half, the Warrior defense threw a shutout in the second half, surrendering just 61 yards and four first downs. St. Louis Park, which netted 45 yards rushing, didn't get inside the Warrior 25 in the second half, during which it ran just 23 plays from scrimmage. St. Louis Park ran just 46 plays all night compared to Brainerd's 87.
The Orioles' first three second-half possessions ended via turnovers as Boran intercepted passes on the first two series and defensive lineman Isaak Hines recovered a fumble on the third possession. Brainerd scored 11 points off the turnovers.
"During halftime we talked about a couple of changes we were going to make, and we made them," Boran said. "We executed them perfectly pretty much.
"We knew they were going to take a shot early, try to get momentum back on their side," Boran said of the second half, "so I was playing back a little bit. They threw it up, and I came down with it."
In the first half, Geraets piled up 28 rushes for 138 yards. He lugged the ball 27 more times in the second half.
"Charlie runs better in the fourth (quarter) than he does in the first," Warriors head coach Ron Stolski said. "Honestly, he wears tacklers down and we like to keep the tempo up."
Two of the Warriors' first three possessions ended without points. On the game-opening drive, they trudged 17 plays (all but one rushing) to the Orioles' 4, where they were stymied on fourth down. Two series later, Brainerd was denied on fourth down from the Orioles' 18 when a Joe Stolski pass went incomplete.
"We hit a couple bumps in the first half," Joe Stolski said. "You could tell we're a fourth-quarter team because we got after it, we started getting our blocks. Everything came together and put some more points on the board."
Geraets opened the scoring on Brainerd's second possession when he grabbed a 4-yard scoring toss from Joe Stolski. Boran and Joe Stolski connected for a 34-yard gain to the Orioles' 9 to set up the score four plays later.
"I made a fake to (Joe) Klang I think it was," Joe Stolski said. "I looked over and Charlie was wide open. It was just a touch pass into the end zone. He was wide open. He walked right in. It was awesome."
Playing in their first state tournament, the Orioles seized the lead on the next possession. Quarterback Jonny Sorenson, who finished with 173 yards passing, hit Akili Farris for 11- and 40-yard gains to the Brainerd 20. On the first play of the second quarter, Sorenson found Ryan Klaers for a TD. Skyler Rudelius-Palmer kicked the extra point giving the Orioles a 7-6 lead that they took into the locker room at halftime.
"One of the things we talked about (at halftime) was poise," Ron Stolski said. "We didn't go in there screaming and hollering. We just said, 'Hey this is a good, tough football game tonight and the other guy is good. Let's try to fix some things.'"
The Warriors, who finished with a 388-218 edge in total yards, ripped off 18 unanswered points in the second half. Brainerd's comeback started with Boran's second interception on a fake punt, which he returned 16 yards to the Orioles' 44. Geraets bashed his way into the end zone nine plays later. Geraets passed to Max Zimmerman for the 2-point conversion and a 14-7 edge with 4:41 left in the third.
"We handed off to Charlie actually," Joe Stolski said of the conversion. "Then Zimmerman went behind the linebackers and Charlie just pitched it over the top."
Hines recovered the fumble to snuff the Orioles' next possession. Geraets carried eight of the next 15 plays, leading to a Zach Henke 21-yard field goal for a 10-point Warrior lead with 9:32 left in the fourth.
On Brainerd's second-to-last possession, Geraets carried on seven of 10 plays and barreled into the end zone from 2 yards out. Henke kicked the extra point and the Warriors secured their seventh straight win while dealing the Orioles their first loss in six games.
St. Louis Park 0 7 0 0—7
Brainerd 6 0 8 10—24
Brd-Charlie Geraets 4 pass from Joe Stolski (kick fails) 0:32
StLP-Ryan Klaers 20 pass from Jonny Sorenson (Skyler Rudelius Palmer kick) 11:55
Brd-Geraets 1 run (Max Zimmerman pass from Geraets) 4:41
Brd-Zach Henke 21 FG, 9:32
Brd-Geraets 2 run (Henke kick) 3:02
Rushes-yards: Brd 79-344, SLP 24-45
Pass comp-att-int-yds: Brd 3-8-0-44, SLP 11-22-2-173
Total offense: Brd 388, SLP 218
Fumbles-lost: Brd 0-0, SLP 1-1
Rushing: Brd-Joe Stolski 7-34, Charlie Geraets 55-265, Max Zimmerman 8-22, Joe Klang 9-23; StLP-Jonny Sorenson 11-4, Sajid Nathim 11-45, Akili Farris 2-(-4)
Passing: Brd-Joe Stolski 3-8-0-44; StLP-Sorenson 11-22-2-173
Receiving: Brd-Max Boran 1-34, Geraets 2-10; StLP-Semaj Mitchell 4-41, Akili Farris 4-94, Ryan Klaers 3-38