Chances are Jacob Drietz has already won the battle before the football is snapped.
The Brainerd Warriors senior linebacker has made it a mission to understand his responsibilities, read his keys and react quickly to what offenses are trying to do against Brainerd’s defense.
The results are eye popping and they seem to only be getting better.
“I think we’re playing some of the best ball we’ve played all season at this point,” Drietz said. “Even compared to last year, I think our defense is playing really well. We’re playing fast. If you look at every play, almost everybody is getting involved in every tackle. We’re loud. We’re communicating. I think right now our defense is really setting the tone for the rest of the season.”
Drietz has led the Warriors in tackles in eight of their nine games, including 14 tackles in a 34-6 victory over Sartell in the opening round of the Section 8-5A playoffs Tuesday, Oct. 22.
In Brainerd’s regular season-ending 28-12 loss to St. Cloud Tech, Drietz corralled 22 tackles to put him at 137 for the season.
Position: Linebacker, fullback.
Career highlight: Being a Warrior captain.
Other sports: Hockey and lacrosse.
Grade-point average: 3.5.
Favorite class: Exercise science.
Favorite food: lasagna.
Favorite movie: “Top Gun.”
Favorite TV show: “Game of Thrones.”
Favorite website or app: Snapchat.
Favorite restaurant: McDonalds.
Future plans: Play college football and study kinesiology.
Favorite athlete: Jamal Adams.
Parents: Lisa and Steve.
“He’s got a motor,” Stolski said. “He just always finds himself around the ball. He’s a good reader of his keys and of course we have the best linebacker coach in the state of Minnesota in Scott Parsons. He’s aggressive and he has good knowledge of the game.”
Parsons echoed Stolski’s comments about Drietz’s relentlessness. He added Drietz’s work ethic in becoming a complete player.
“He’s willing to put in the time in order to be a good player,” Parsons said. “He works on his strength all year. He’s been heavily involved in our strength program.
“Also, he has good knowledge for the game so any game planning we do, or new things we put in, he pretty much knows what everyone on the defense is supposed to be doing. That helps a lot on the field with getting kids aligned properly.”
In the playoff win over Sartell, Drietz collected his second fumble recovery of the season. His first fumble recovery also came against Sartell during the regular season. The senior hauled in the loose ball and rumbled in for the game-winning points in a 30-26 homecoming victory.
“That was an awesome moment,” Drietz said. “I never expected anything like that going into the game. So when Davon (Stuckey) made that spectacular play to knock the ball loose, I just kind of got wide and just said, ‘Oh, this is it.’
“I picked it up and looked around and saw I had daylight. I knew it was going to be a touchdown.”
It was Drietz’s first career touchdown.
Last season, Drietz produced 111 tackles, five fumble recoveries, three sacks, three pass breakups and one blocked punt.
“He’s been a two-year starter and the biggest thing for kids when they get to the varsity level defensively is reading,” Parsons said. “They haven't had a lot of experience with that at younger ages. It’s one of the major keys to their success and he’s adapted to it very well. We stress it early. Last year, as a junior, he understood the importance of that and saw older kids when they played how it benefited them to be disciplined with their reading. With those role models and his focus and discipline he was able to do the same thing.”
Brainerd has a points system for defensive players and Drietz leads that category with 3,110 defensive points.
“We’re maturing as a defense,” Stolski said. “Our four linebackers across the board with Drietz, Forrest Gibson, Josh McLean and Davon Stuckey are really coming along. I think our defensive coordinator, (Jason) Freed, really puts together great game plans. He gets those people in the right places.
“But when it comes to Drietz, I think, it’s his enthusiasm for the game. He gets excited.
“He’s a captain and he’s one of the leaders.”
Stolski said Drietz is a complete linebacker who is good against the run and pass. He had a pass breakup Tuesday against Sartell. Stolski added Drietz is a good pass catcher as well.
“We like him as a blocking fullback and he’s got good hands, too,” Stolski said. “We’ve got a couple of routes for him out of the backfield. We just haven’t used them yet. He didn’t play as much fullback Tuesday night as he has in some games.”
But Parsons couldn’t stress enough that Drietz’s work ethic is what separates him from most.
“The decision to become a good linebacker came my sophomore year, but I would say my freshman year was when I found the weight room,” Drietz said. “I realized then that to be the best athlete on the field or to set myself apart I needed to hit the weights and it was my freshman year that I found the weight room and started working hard.”
Other notable performances
Nick Whiteman, boys soccer, scored a goal in the Section 8-2A finals.
Ben Staehling, football, rushed for 122 yards on 27 carries against St. Cloud Tech.
Owen Davis, football, caught five passes for 108 yards and a touchdown against St. Cloud Tech.