It was the tale of two halves for the Brainerd Warriors as they fell to the Moorhead Spuds 14-13 Friday, Sept. 20, at Adamson Field.
The game started slow as the score remained scoreless after the first quarter. Coach Ron Stolski talked this week about his defense forcing more turnovers against Moorhead and they answered the call when Davon Stuckey recovered a Spuds fumble on Moorhead’s first drive.
In the second quarter, the Spuds marched down the field and were inside the Warriors’ 20-yard line. Senior cornerback Joey Wiskow intercepted Spuds quarterback Trey Feeney in the endzone.
“We made some really good plays,” Stolski said of his defense in the first half. “They were moving the ball at will, but we were playing that resilient defense.”
On the second play of the Warriors’ drive after the interception, Nate Staehling ran the ball 80 yards into the endzone for a Warrior touchdown and put them up 7-0. It was another big play for the Warriors offense, something they relied on heavily last week against Sauk Rapids.
The Warriors forced the Spuds to punt on their next drive and marched down the field with a 12-play, 60-yard drive that ended in a Ben Staehling 8-yard touchdown run with 1:33 left in the first half. It was another great drive by the Warriors to end the first half on a high note.
Senior tight end Josh McLain caught his first ball of the year on the drive for 20 yards that set up the touchdown. The Warriors missed the extra point, however, and went into halftime up 13-0.
“The first half was a beautiful half,” Stolski said. “I really thought we might have them reeling. We had one of patented end of the first half drives and it felt like our running game was giving them problems and then we had too many second and twelves in the second half.”
The Warriors punted on their first possession of the second half and the wind seemed to pick up. The wind played a key factor in the second half in Stolski’s mind because the Spuds could use the kicking game to their advantage.
The Spuds first drive of the second half was a seven-play, 50-yard drive which ended in a two-yard touchdown run by Keanan Wendt.
The Warriors next drive got extended thanks to a roughing the kicker penalty on fourth and 26. The Warriors could not capitalize and were forced to punt. On the punt, they helped out the Spuds with a dead ball personal foul penalty, which put the Spuds at midfield.
“Football is a game of emotion,” Spuds coach Kevin Feeney said of personal foul penalties on both teams. “We talked about at halftime that we did some good things and then we would let a penalty or a turnover or something self afflicted go the wrong way.”
It took the Spuds two plays to go 50 yards and take the lead at 14-13. After a 37-yard reception to Balke Walthall, quarterback Trey Feeney scored on a 13-yard scramble and the Warriors 13-point halftime cushion had vanished.
“They had very good execution,” Stolski said of Moorhead’s second half. “Another thing that is very uncharacteristic of our team, and it upsets me, two or three unsportsmanlike penalties -- that’s not Brainerd football. And that sustained some of their drives and we couldn’t get back on the field.”
The penalties were something with which both teams had trouble. Moorhead committed eight penalties for 60 yards and Brainerd committed three penalties for 35 yards with two of them being personal foul unsportsmanlike penalties.
“Both teams have a lot of new bodies out there,” Coach Feeney said. “Both teams are learning and we understand the type of program Brainerd has and the quality of coaching and players they have. We knew we were in for war and this is a big win for us on the road.”
The Spuds shut out the Warriors in the second half after allowing some big plays in the first half. The Warriors only mustered 61 total yards of offense in the second half.
“We really just challenged our defense,” Coach Feeney said. “Because we thought we played pretty soft in the first half and I’m proud of the physicality they brought in the second half.”
Meanwhile, the Spuds offense caught fire in the second half. They racked up 187 yards of total offense in the second half, including 148 passing yards.
“That’s a sign of a team that’s growing,” Coach Feeney said. “This team needs to learn how to grind out a win and this was a good example.”
For the Spuds, Brady Walthall caught six balls for 122 yards and 86 of them came in the second half. Blake Walthall caught 6 balls for 97 yards. Trey Feeney threw for 234 yards. Although the Spuds were prolific threw the air their two touchdowns came on the ground.
“Their pass game was outstanding,” Stolski said of Moohead. “We could not get out of the hold. The wind wasn’t here in the first half. Their quarterback had a heck of a game.”
The defensive line played a big role in the Warriors’ try for a fourth comeback. A sack on fourth down by Dkhori Stuckey set Brainerd up at their own 36 with a chance to score the game winning drive.
Nate Staehling threw an interception on third down and the Spuds got the ball back and milked the rest of the clock, aided by an offside penalty on fourth and two.
“We have to maintain our discipline and stop hurting ourselves a little bit,” Stolski said.
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