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Football: Elks blitz Warriors 51-28 in opener

After just two weeks of practice instead of the usual three, and the kickoff moved up seven hours to noon to avert a threatening weather forecast, the Brainerd Warriors ran into a blitzkrieg in their season opener Saturday.

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Brainerd’s Colton Borg runs after catching a pass Saturday against Elk River. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery)

After just two weeks of practice instead of the usual three, and the kickoff moved up seven hours to noon to avert a threatening weather forecast, the Brainerd Warriors ran into a blitzkrieg in their season opener Saturday.

The Elk River Elks scored on their first five possessions and amassed 558 total yards - all rushing - on their way to a 51-28 victory at Adamson Field. Elk River's double tight end, fullhouse backfield pounded the ball ahead 72 times. It gashed the Warriors' inexperienced defense for seven TDs - five scores ranged from 26 to 69 yards.

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Elks 51, Warriors 28

The key: Elk River scored 30 first-quarter points

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Overall: Brd 0-1, ER 1-0

Next: St. Cloud Apollo at Brainerd 7 p.m. Friday.

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Elks head coach Steve Hamilton credited his offensive line, many of whom had to play both ways in sticky humidity, for opening gaping holes for Nicholas Rice, Kyle Ziemer, Sam Gibas and quarterback Trent Pink. Rice romped for 202 yards and three TDs, Ziemer for 115 yards and a TD, Gibas for 107 and two scores and Pink added 82 yards.

The Elks played without three lineman who were inactive with injuries.

"We lucked out a little on the weather," Hamilton said. "I feared when the game got switched to afternoon - especially if it was hot - I knew we would be gassed and we were so we had to hang on.
"We have a really good group. When we have everyone, it could be a special group."

Brainerd didn't help itself as it had three passes intercepted and lost a fumble. The Elks converted those miscues into 23 points. Trailing 38-0 early in the second quarter, the Warriors settled down and outscored Elk River 28-13 the rest of the way.

"It sure looked bleak," Warriors head coach Ron Stolski said. "You can't start a game with - boom - they're gone, and now you're down, and then they get something else, then they get an onside kick and before you know it they had 38.

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"The rest of it was a game. We've got to remember we're a very inexperienced team. You learn a lot in an opening game. This was the worst scenario - not to have enough (practice) time - but that's not an excuse. That's the way it is."

Lineman Josh Howieson, one of five Warrior captains, didn't blame the defeat on lack of practice time or an earlier game time.

"I think we just didn't come ready to play," he said. "It's tough to come back in a game when you're down 30-0 in the first 10 minutes. But I thought we fought back. We didn't quit but we can't have four turnovers either.

"The little things bit us in the butt today. We have to come back next week and play all four quarters."

On the first play from scrimmage, Gibas broke up the middle for a 69-yard score. Four plays after the Elks' first interception Rice bolted 30 yards for a TD.

The Elks recovered the subsequent onside kick and Rice eventually bolted 32 yards for a score. On their next possession, he tallied from 41 yards and it was 30-0.

Late in the first quarter the Elks intercepted again and the turnover led to Jack Kolar's 2-yard blast. Two-point conversions followed four of Elk River's first five scores.

Brainerd finally got on the board with 7:42 left in the second as Allen Jevning ran 10 yards for a TD and caught the 2-point conversion pass from quarterback Hanson Devine.

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On the next possession, Isaak Hines recovered an Elks fumble and Devine scored on a 1-yard dive for a 38-16 deficit.

Gibas converted a third-quarter Warrior fumble into a 1-yard TD burst. Ziemer ended the Elks' scoring with a 26-yard run late in the fourth.

Chris Pederson scored on a 6-yard pass from Devine in the third and Colton Borg grabbed a 19-yard scoring toss from Devine in the fourth to conclude the Warriors' scoring.

"They're a nice ballclub, and I wish them well, but I think our team - if we rise up the way we're accustomed to rising up - will have a better game next week," Stolski said.

"I hate to use such a cliche - you don't hear me say this much - but in this one the film will really help us - it will help the kids," Stolski added. "You could see we hadn't had much contact. But I liked how we came back, especially offensively, and defensively we did too."

Hamilton was impressed that Brainerd didn't fold.

"It would have been easy for them when it was 30-0 to just pack it in," he said. "They didn't do that and that's great. That's what the game's about. You want to see kids compete - win or lose - and do it the right way and that's what they did."

Elk River 30 8 7 6 - 51

Brainerd 0 16 6 6 - 28

First quarter

ER-Sam Gibas 69 run (Kyle Ziemer pass from Trent Pink) 11:44

ER-Nicholas Rice 30 run (Gibas run) 10:39

ER-Rice 32 run (Pink run) 7:24

ER-Rice 41 run (run fails) 4:08

Second quarter

ER-Jack Kolar 2 run (Ziemer run) 10:47

Brd-Allen Jevning 10 run (Jevning pass from Hanson Devine) 7:42

Brd-Devine 1 run (Devine run) 2:45

Third quarter

ER-Gibas 1 run (Austin Solors kick) 4:11

Brd-Chris Pederson 6 pass from Devine (run fails) :20

Fourth quarter

Brd-Colton Borg 19 pass from Devine (7:37)

ER-Ziemer 26 run (run fails) 4:22

Team statistics

First downs: Brd 17, ER 25

Rushes-yards: Brd 38-166, ER 72-558

Pass comp-att-int-yds: Brd 7-17-3-74, ER 0-1-1-0

Total offense: Brd 240, ER 558

Punts-avg: Brd 2-52.0, ER 2-25.0

Return yards: Brd 54, ER 10

Fumbles-lost: Brd 1-1, ER 1-1

Penalties-yds lost: Brd 6-30, ER 11-98

Individual leaders

Rushing: Brd-Hanson Devine 5-30, Mitchell Rahn 22-84, Allen Jevning 8-32, Chris Pederson 3-20; ER-Trent Pink 16-82, Sam Gibas 9-107, Kyle Ziemer 17-115, Nicholas Rice 15-202

Passing: Brd-Devine 7-17-74; ER-Pink 0-1-0

Receiving: Brd-Chris Pederson 3-13, Will Peabody 2-33, Colton Borg 1-19, Brady Kline 1-9

MIKE BIALKA may be reached at mike.bialka@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark .

Related Topics: BRAINERD WARRIORS
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