Ben Staehling doesn’t mind sharing the backfield with his baby brother.
He’s happy his parents get to watch them both play, but when the older Staehling’s number is called it’s his time to shine.
That was the case in the Brainerd Warriors’ 28-3 victory over the Sauk Rapids Storm Friday, Sept. 13. The starting running back contributed 168 yards rushing on 17 carries and broke open the game with his 2-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve been waiting for Ben a little bit, but I think in fairness to him and others like Owen Davis, Jacob Drietz, Josh McLain and Davon Stuckey, they’ve had to play two ways and that’s a lot of responsibility,” Warriors head coach Ron Stolski said. “Ben doesn’t get off the field very often. We’re doing the best we can.
“That and we have an inexperienced team generally. The offensive line is inexperienced so it’s just a matter of time. He reads very well and he practices hard. He’s a good football player.”
The victory was Brainerd’s first of the season. The 23 points were also the first points of the season for the Warriors, who opened with two tough road opponents.
“I think not scoring those first two games, our confidence was a little low,” Staehling said. “But our coaches did a good job of staying positive with us. I thought our offensive line had a really good week of practice and I thought we all worked really hard. Our confidence is already up a lot now after getting a few scores against Sauk. I think we’ll be rolling now.”
Staehling was held to 39 yards on 12 carries in a 23-0 loss to Bemidji in Week Two. He tallied 79 yards on 13 carries in a season-opening loss to Elk River.
As a young offensive line gains experience and continues to grow, those numbers should continue to improve. Staehling is doing his part to help.
“Just kind of pump the guys up,” Staehling said. “If holes aren’t opening up I’m just telling them to keep blocking hard and they’ll open up eventually and we’ll get a big run soon. I’m just trying to stay positive with them and being a good leader for them.”
Staehling also returns punts. He’s on the punt team and plays strong safety on defense. In three games, he’s collected 25 tackles, two pass breakups and a forced fumble.
“It’s pretty hard on your body, but I can’t complain about being on the field too much,” Staehling said. “It’s awesome being out there all the time, but it is hard. I’m thankful I am able to be out there as much as I am.”
Staehling’s biggest strength is running the ball and Stolski believes his senior back’s vision is what makes him so good.
“He has above average speed and good strength,” Stolski said. “But I think mainly his vision. He sees things pretty well and then breaks to the open places.
“He trains well in the offseason. He’s a real weight room kid and, of course, he’s a two-sport athlete so we love those. We think those are wonderful traits. He’s just a good high school athlete.”
Last season, Staehling carried the ball 129 times for 677 yards (5.3 yards-per-carry average) and eight touchdowns. He caught three passes for 15 yards and was 1-for-1 passing with a 10-yard touchdown pass to former quarterback Sam Miller in last year’s playoffs.
But he wasn’t ready to rest on his past successes.
“I did a lot of speed training stuff with my brother,” Staehling said. “This summer we would just go to the field and throw the ball a lot to each other. I would run routes for him and we would do a lot of 40-yard dashes and stuff. We would run up the big hill by the high school three or four times a week. That and also lifted a lot.”
Like most athletes, Staehling’s goal is to help the Warriors advance to state. He said being a good leader and being ready to play were his two personal goals.
“Just historically here, we have quiet leaders,” Stolski said. “I see him in that role. He’ll encourage others quietly. He’s not overt. You just see him doing things, not to get noticed, but he’s just doing them. That’s a great characteristic of a leader.”
Other notable performances
Gabbie Smith, girls soccer, finished with a goal and two assists against Sauk Rapids and two goals and an assist against Willmar.
Jacquilyn Rude, swimming and diving, won the 50- and 100-yard freestyles against Willmar.
Avery Eckman, volleyball, finished with 17 kills and two ace serves against Willmar and 17 kills, three blocks, 15 digs and two ace serves against Bemidji.
Delaney Schaffer, volleyball, finished with 10 kills against Willmar and 14 kills, five blocks and two digs against Bemidji.
Jack Thorkelson, boys soccer, finished with two goals and an assist against Willmar.
Izzy Olson, swimming and diving, won the diving event against Willmar and St. Cloud Tech.
Owen Davis, football, caught four passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns against Sauk Rapids.
Kate Kurtzman, tennis, finished the week 3-0 at No. 1 singles.
Positions: Running back and strong safety.
Career highlight: Throwing a touchdown pass to Sam Miller against Alexandria last year in the playoffs.
Other sports: Basketball, track and field.
Grade-point average: 3.0.
Favorite class: Psychology.
Favorite food: Steak.
Favorite movie: “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Favorite TV show: “13 Reason Why.”
Favorite website or app: YouTube.
Favorite restaurant: Black Sheep Pizza in Minneapolis.
Future plans: Has offers to play Division II football at a few colleges.
Favorite athlete: LeBron James.
Parents: Joe and Erica Staehling.