Boys Soccer: Brainerd boys looking to build off last year’s memorable season

Brainerd Warrior soccer captains Brandon Neifert (left), Max Lelwica, and Cooper Cousino practice last week at Don Adamson Field. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

One game away.

The Brainerd Warriors finished last year 12-2-2 overall and 8-1-1 in the Central Lakes Conference, but more impressive was the team’s Section 8-2A runner-up finish. It was the first section finals appearance in program history.
And while the Minnesota State High School League hasn’t ruled on a postseason, the Warriors’ goal will be to be ready if there is one.

“Our goal is to be successful,” Warriors head coach Tom Grausam said. “That means different things to different people. It’s not always about winning, but their goal is to get back to the championship of the section if there is one. We don’t know what may happen. We’ll still want to contend for the conference championship. We’ll see. It all depends on the season and whether it will even last. It could be a short season. We could have the full season. We could have a postseason or we may not.”

Every sports season has been cut down and for the Warriors the opposition will be Central Lakes Conference opponents with the addition of Moorhead and Bemidji. The Warriors were 8-1-1 against conference foes and tied Bemidji and did not play Moorhead last season.

Brainerd will be without all-conference goalie Jude Hiltner, who posted a 1.1 goals-against average and a save percentage of 69%.


“Brandon Neifert is equal to Jude Hiltner,” Grausam said. “I have all the confidence in him. He’s going to do a great job. He played some games last year for us so he has the experience of being a varsity goalie, which is why I trust him and his decision making. He’s also very confident and he’s a heck of an athlete.”

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Tom Gausam

Neifert owned a 1.8 goals-against average with a save percentage of 57% last season playing behind Hiltner.

In front of the net, will be all-conference selection Max Lelwica and all-conference honorable mention Cooper Cousino as well as Jeremy Duff.

“That’s a solid back three,” Grausam said. “They work really well together. The experience they have is key, especially the communication part. Just knowing how they each play and where they play at all times really helps. All three of those guys and Brandon are all seniors and so that senior leadership is all right there. All in the back and it’s truly our strength. That’s a good problem to have.”

The Warriors will be without offensive juggernauts Nick Whiteman and Jack Thorkelson, but Grausam isn’t worried about producing offense.

“To be honest, everyone was worried about this year for us, but I have no worries,” Grausam said. “We’re going to be just fine. The people that moved up to varsity this year could have played varsity last year.


“Adam Klecker is going to step in for Nick and he sees the field and is going to distribute the ball very well. He can score and he can shoot. He’s the real deal. He sees it. He understands it.

“Our goal scorers, we’re going to have Isaiah Peterson, who is a senior, and Cruz Megazzini will be our attackers.”

Klecker finished last year with three goals and Peterson posted two goals.

Trenton Jackovich, A.C. Borwicz, Nole Robertson, Jackson Bluth and Keaton Walkowiak will accompany Klecker in the middle with Logan Carlson and Sean Engelstad.

Brainerd’s one conference loss was to St. Cloud Tech and the tie occurred against Rocori. Grausam expects an even tougher conference schedule this year.

“St. Cloud Tech is always tough and they’re all going to be tough,” Grausam said. “Sauk Rapids always plays us strong and we go there this year. Willmar, Moorhead and Bemidji will be good tests. Apollo is always strong. Those St. Cloud teams are always strong. They have a good feeder program. I have a feeling we’ll be top three, but I’d like to be outright No. 1.”

The Warriors will be playing under the lights on a Friday night when they host the Moorhead Spuds. It’s just another unusual thing to go along with all the other unusual events surrounding this sports season.

“We have no Saturday games and with the social distancing and the masks and the limited number of fans it’s just all-around going to be a weird season,” Grausam said. “It’s just going to be a different season.”


JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at


Goalies: Brandon Neifert, Kalvin Stengrim

Defense: Jeremy Duff, Max Lelwica, Cooper Cousino, Tyler Dean, Joshua Eberts

Midfield: Trenton Jackovich, A.C. Borwicz, Nole Robertson, Jackson Bluth, Adam Klecker, Logan Carlson, Sean Engelstad, Keaton Walkowiak

Forwards: Cruz Megazzini, Isaiah Peterson, James Thompson



Thursday, Aug. 27: hosts Fergus Falls 7 p.m.

Sept. 1: at Sartell 5 p.m.

Sept. 3: hosts Rocori 7 p.m.

Sept. 8: hosts St. Cloud Apollo 7 p.m.

Sept. 11: at Sauk Rapids 5 p.m.

Sept. 15: at St. Cloud Tech 7 p.m.

Sept. 17: hosts Willmar 7 p.m.

Sept. 22: at Bemidji 7 p.m.


Sept. 25: hosts Moorhead 7 p.m.

Sept. 29: at Alexandria 7 p.m.

Oct. 8: TBD

Boys soccer

Head coach: Tom Grausam, Sixth season

2019 finish: 8-1-1 in CLC, 12-2-2 overall

Assistant coaches: Chad Morlock, Greg Whiteman, Michael Morford


Captains: Cooper Cousino, Max Lelwica, Brandon Neifert

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Tom Gausam

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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