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Football: Warriors need discipline against Elk River in Week 1

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Ben Staehling runs the ball against Alexandria in a 2018 game. As a captain for the 2019 season, Staehling and the Warriors look to get their first win Thursday against Elk River. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch file photo.

For Brainerd Warriors coach Ron Stolski, Elk River is the last team he wants to see Week One.

“They run from a double tight, dead T, they are heel to heel and you have to come up with an entirely different defensive scheme that we probably won’t use again all year,” Stolski said.

Elk River is coming off a 2018 season that saw them in the state semifinals. Under ninth-year coach Steven Hamilton, they have made it the state tournament the last three years including a class 5A state title in 2016.

Elk River will likely throw a lot of tight packages at the Warriors Thursday night. They hope to trick the Brainerd defense into some big plays by using misdirection.

Junior running back Carter Otto is a name to watch from Elk River. Hamilton thinks he could be one of the best players in the state this year.

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“He will be a key player for us on both sides,” Hamilton said. “He loves football. He’s the fastest player on the team. He’s the strongest player on the team. We really felt at one point if we put him at any of the positions he could start there.”

Stolski feels good about his Warriors coming off their scrimmage at St. Michael-Albertville. He knows his players are ready to start playing for the real games.

“We’ve been preparing for Elk River for a week and a half now,” Stolski said. “We want to go down and play them. We know they are very good.”

Last time Brainerd and Elk River matched up the Elks put up 51 points in a 51-28 victory over Brainerd. Even though Elk River’s offense may look old school it can be explosive and put up points in a hurry.

Stolski thinks it’s all about making sure they can get a good push on the defensive line and put pressure on their defense with some offense.

“You have to play assignment football,” Stolski said. “They are so good at deceiving you that if you slip up four or five times they put up 35 points on you.

“But they haven’t played the best defense. A couple years ago we were in a shootout with them. I don't know if we are capable of that this year.”

It’ll be a challenge for the Warriors because of how young and inexperienced they are upfront on the defensive line.

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“What you’re concerned about is that you're tactically sound,” Stolski said. “We want your fundamentals to be good and we’ll see.”

Stolski isn’t too thrilled to be playing on a Thursday night for the opener either. He likes playing on Fridays to get that extra day of practice.

With that being said Stolski feels like his guys had a spirited week of practice and are ready for the challenges Elk River might bring them.

“We will see if they are jittery,” Stolski said of Elk River.

Elk River will attack returns some key players on their offensive and defensive line along with their stud running back Otto. Coach Hamilton knows Brainerd will be well coached and prepared for the first game of the year.

“They are going to play hard,” Hamilton said of Brainerd. “We expect a challenge for sure.”

The key for Stolski is to make sure his team will grow from the game. He hopes he can discover some players when their techniques are challenged in live game competition and not just practice.

“The game does not define the season,” Stolski said.

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Brainerd Warriors (0-0)

Offense

QB: 16-Nate Staehling.

RB: 17-Jacob Drietz, 21-Brandt Patton, 22-Ben Staehling, 24-Jack Lundstrom, 26-Davon Stuckey.

WR: 7-Jacob Smith, 8-Brett Besenfelder, 10-Harry Carlson, 23-Owen Davis, 28-Josh McClain.

OL: 51-Ethan Strong, 55-Simon Nelson, 58-Aden Crabb, 60-Dominik Waytashek, 66-Jackson Jeremiah, 68-Nick Smith, 75-Luke Wilhelm.

Defense

DL: 5-Andrew Thielke, 74-Sevien Thompson-Fly, 78-Nick Moline, 79-Chandlier DeRosier, 99-Jon Berry.

LB: 17-Jacob Drietz, 26-Davon Stuckey, 28-Jacob McLain, 40-Forrest Gibson.

CB: 2-Joey Wiskow, 10-Harry Carlson, 21-Brandt Patton.

SS: 20-Kayden Schoppner, 22-Ben Staehling.

FS: 23-Ben Davis.

Special Teams

K: 88-Andrew Albright.

P: 23-Ben Davis.

Elk River Elks (0-0)

Key Players

25-Carter Otto (HB/DB), 3-Joe Nordstrom (RB/DL), 2-Beau Ruby (QB), 5-Zach Stroh (QB), 44-Elijah Bicek (TE/LB), 65-Seth Hopkins (OL/DL), 71-Cody Newhouse (OL/DL).

Brainerd vs. Elk River

When: 7 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Elk River High School.

Last Meeting: Elk River won 51-28 during 2015 regular season.

The series: Brainerd leads 7-6.

Radio: KLIZ-AM (1380).

Web stream: www.kliz.com.

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