A blocked punt returned for a touchdown proved to be the difference as the Warriors fell to Rocori 12-6 Friday, Oct. 11, at Don Adamson Field.
Spartan senior Isaac Massmann blocked punter Owen Davis’ kick and returned it 29 yards for the score.
“It’s one thing to block a punt, it’s another to take it in your hands and run it all the way,” Rocori coach James Herberg said. “We were close on a punt earlier in the game and we were able to talk about it at halftime, and credit to our guy for making a play. It was the difference in the game.”
The blocked punt came on the Warriors' first possession of the second half and haunted them until the end of the game.
It was the last home game for the Warriors in the regular season and they honored their 16 seniors before the game. A steady snowfall made for an offense-challenged game as the Warriors fumbled three times in the first half.
Rocori got on the board first in the second quarter when quarterback Jack Steil scrambled in from 8 yards out and put the Spartans up 6-0.
Warriors 6, Rocori 12
Key: Blocked punt for touchdown was the difference as the Warriors outgained Rocori but came up short at the buzzer.
Overall: Brd 2-5, Roc 5-2.
Next: at St. Cloud Tech 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16.
The Warriors responded with a touchdown of their own. Quarterback Nate Staehling hooked up with tight end Josh McLain for a 24-yard touchdown, which tied the game 6-6.
Senior John Barry blocked Rocori’s punt on the ensuing drive and the Warriors looked to be set up to go ahead at the end of the first half. They started the drive at the Rocori 20, but Ben Staehling fumbled at the 2-yard line and the Spartans recovered the ball in the endzone for a touchback. The game remained 6-6 at halftime.
“Interesting game where there were two blocked punts,” Warrior coach Ron Stolski said. “And one went for a touchdown for them and the other we fumbled at the 2 when we thought the back was down.”
Down 12-6 in the fourth quarter, the Warriors needed a stop to get the ball back. They thought they had it when the Spartans punted the ball away to them, but a roughing the kicker penalty made it first and 10 Rocori.
The Spartans did end up punting on that drive, pinning the Warriors inside the 3-yard line with 2:43 left to play and no timeouts left for Brainerd.
A 38-yard completion to Simon Foss and a 21-yard completion to McLain and the Warriors were in Rocori territory looking to tie the game with a touchdown.
On fourth and 19, Nate Staehling threw incomplete, but a roughing the passer penalty gave the Warriors a fresh set of downs.
The Warriors got up to the Spartans’ 11-yard line when a holding penalty dropped them back to the 25. Nate Staehling threw an interception in the endzone with four seconds left and the Warriors lost their fifth game of the season.
“I thought we made a great drive,” Stolski said. “I fully expected we were going to score. Our quarterback threw it well, but we ran out of time.”
Despite the loss, the Warriors outgained the Spartans 255-213.
“You never want your defense on the field at the end of the game like that to close it out,” Herberg said. “But to be honest, it’s the strength of our team and I had the confidence in them to pull it out for us tonight.”
Foss got his first start of the year for the Warriors and hauled in two catches for 64 yards to lead the Warriors in receiving. McLain caught four passes for 52 yards and touchdown.
Nate Staehling led Brainerd in rushing with 93 yards on 23 carries. His older brother Ben Staehling rushed for 42 yards on 15 carries.
Despite the steady snowfall, Stolski did not think it affected the game.
“I didn’t think conditions had much to with it,” Stolski said. “I just think two defenses played hard.”
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