For the second season in a row, the Brainerd Warriors will not get a chance to defend their state title.
The Warriors are three-time defending state champions and winners of 55 straight games, but because of lack of competition, the Warriors will not get a season for the 2021 school year.
The Minnesota State High School League in conjunction with the Adapted Athletic Association is allowing 12 practices this season with a 48-hour break between practices.
The big reason many programs choose not to have a season was the difficulty with travel said Brainerd head coach Todd Person.
“The stipulation they put on this is that it is practice only,” Person said. “We said that we wanted to play. They sent out a survey and asked what teams would be interested in having a season and I guess we were the only team that said we wanted to play.
“When we had the last Adapted Athletic Association meeting, which was two weeks ago, there were a couple of teams that said they would be interested in some games toward the end of the practice season — the end of February. We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to get something at that point. We would like to get something.”
Person believes that scrimmages count toward practices, but he’s not opposed to his team scrimmaging as they have in the past to prepare for the state tournament. In the past, the floor hockey team scrimmaged against Brainerd High School students as well as other varsity teams like the girls’ hockey team.
“There are no scrimmages against other school districts, but we’re hopeful to get some stuff going within our student body that we have here,” Person said. “Assistant coach (Josh) Fordyce and I have talked about how we want to handle this season and we want to do everything we can to make this as meaningful as possible knowing that we may not get a chance to compete against somebody in a different colored jersey. We’re wanting to give these players as much as we can because this is their one opportunity for the year. We’re hopeful we can get a game or two at the end or get those scrimmages going just so we can give them a chance to compete.”
Last season’s state tournament was canceled the day it was to start. Brainerd was packed and prepared to head to Stillwater, the site of the state tournament.
Matt Allord is the lone senior on the Warriors roster. In five years of varsity play, Allord has not felt the agony of defeat. He will, however, feel the agony of not being able to compete.
“That poor kid is going to miss out on two state tournaments,” Person said. “Overall, the kids are taking it really well. There were a lot of positive feelings about just being able to be back in the gym with the team even though it was just practice. I think they were just happy to get away from the computer for awhile.
“Matt was really good at practice on Monday and during our Google Meets. He’s been really upbeat and positive, but just to think he’s not going to get a state tournament his final two years is a bummer.”
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Along with Allord, seven other athletes participated in Brainerd’s first practice Monday. Those included juniors Tre’Von Otey, Kadyn Robinson, Aby Thompson, sophomores Cadence Atwater and Hunter Zilka and seventh-graders Owen Olsen and Andrew Kargel.
Person is hopeful to see Alex Goedgker and William Ingram back on the court soon.
“When we were in school, I was still finding players and taking down names of potential players that are in fifth- and sixth-grade so we’re hoping to keep our numbers up. I’m just hopeful that statewide that this is able to come back. That’s a fear in the back of my mind that programs might just dissolve because of lack of contact and things. That’s why I think they are even allowing the 12 practices.”