It was next man up for the No. 4 Brainerd Warriors as they won the opening round Section 8-5A game 34-6 against No. 5 Sartell despite having their starting running back and quarterback out with injury Tuesday, Oct. 22, at Don Adamson Field.
“What I really liked was the kids who had to step up -- Isaiah Windorski, (Caden) Schoeppner -- did,” Warrior head coach Ron Stolski said. “I mean you lose both Staehlings in the first half and to their credit we played a complete game.”
Sophomore quarterback Nate Staehling put the Warriors on the board first in the second quarter with his 39-yard touchdown scramble. However, on the next Warriors drive. Nate Staehling went down to the turf after an 11-yard run and did not return.
Senior running back Ben Staehling left earlier in the game after he lost a fumble, the only Warriors turnover. So, the Warriors would have to win to continue their season with a backup quarterback and running back.
After Nate Staehling left, junior Isaiah Windorski led the Warriors offense the rest of the way and threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Smith on his first series. The Warriors went into halftime up 14-0.
Brainerd ran 33 run plays to 1 pass play in the second half and held the ball for 16:54 of the 24 minutes. Windorski scampered for a 29-yard touchdown on the first drive of the second half and the Warriors went up 20-0.
“The kid played tremendous,” Stolski said of Windorski. “Here is a kid who loves to play football and knows football and if you are the next guy up you don’t always get a lot of reps. I just thought it was wonderful that he stepped in the way he did and played as well as he did. He took command of the game.”
Windorski did not feel the pressure of the season on his shoulders when he entered.
“The coaches have talked to us all year long about next man up mentality,” Windorski said. “You hate to see a player like that go down, but our guys came with intensity and we were able to play a full game. It was great. I love this game and I love these guys.”
Sartell answered with a 70-yard touchdown catch by Gus Gunderson. It was the only time the Sabres crossed into Brainerd territory as the Warrior defense allowed only 125 yards of total offense.
“The staff had a very good plan and it helped that we played them earlier,” Stolski said of the team’s defensive performance. “I think we are coming of age a little bit defensively and you can sight a number of kids who are playing physical and that’s what we’ve seen.”
Davon Stuckey led the Warriors in rushing with 101 yards on 22 carries and got his only touchdown on an 8-yard run on the very first play of the fourth quarter.
“It was next man up mentality,” Stuckey said. “Coaches talk about it all the time that anything can happen when the lights are on. I’m just proud of the team.”
Brandt Patton added a 5-yard touchdown run of his own as the Warriors had six ball carriers collect 10 yards or more.
Nate Staehling registered 73 yards rushing on seven carries before leaving the game. Windorski rushed for 58 yards on seven carries. Caden Schoeppner stepped in after Ben Staehling went down and rushed for 57 yards on 10 carries with a two-point conversion.
Windorski completed the only two Warrior passes and went 2-2 for 33 yards. Jacob Smith caught one pass for 10 yards and a touchdown, while Owen Davis caught the other pass for 23 yards.
The Warriors dominated the line of scrimmage and picked up 336 total rushing yards on 62 attempts -- the most of the season.
“It was a good team effort. Coaches put the game plan in and we stuck with it. That’s about it,” Stuckey said.
The Warriors picked up their third win of the season -- their second against Sartell -- and will travel to Bemidji to play in the Section 8-5A Semifinals 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26. Bemidji defeated the Warriors 23-0 in Week Two of the season. Brainerd hopes to get healed up and ready for the No. 1 seed.
“We will be ready,” Stolski said. “We have had a good rivalry with Bemidji over the years and got a lot of respect for their staff. We got a couple of days to get the soreness out of the way.”
For more photos of the game between the Brainerd Warriors and the Sartell Sabres go to https://bit.ly/2W2ViUU.
Sartell 0 0 6 0 -- 6
Brainerd 0 14 6 14 -- 34
Brd-Nate Staehling 36 run (Davon Stuckey run) 5:20
Brd-Jacob Smith 10 pass from Isaiah Windorski (run failed) 2:12
Brd-Windorski 29 run (pass failed) 5:54
Sar-Gus Gunderson 70 pass from Cole Hentges (run failed) 4:16
Brd-Stuckey 8 run (kick failed) 11:54
Brd-Brandt Patton 5 run (Caden Schoeppner run) 9:14
Rushes-yards: Brd 62-336, Sar 27-43
Pass comp-att-int-yds: Brd 2-4-0-33, Sar 4-12-0-82
Total offense: Brd 66-369, Sar 39-125
Rushing: Brd-Davon Stuckey 22-101, Nate Staehling 7-73, Isaiah Windorski 7-58, Caden Schoeppner 10-57, Brandt Patton 4-28, Ben Staehling 3-13, Jack Lundstrom 2-6; Sar-Dylan Gerdes 11-34, Andrew Ambrosier 4-14, Steven Brinkerhoff 4-(-2), Cole Hentges 4-(-2)
Passing: Brd-Isaiah Windorski 2-2-0-33, Nate Staehling 0-2-0-0; Sar-Cole Hentges 4-12-0-82
Receiving: Brd-Owen Davis 1-23, Jacob Smith 1-10; Sar-Gus Gunderson 3-77, Dylan Gerdes 1-5
Warriors 34, Sartell 6
Key: Warriors defense holds the Sabres offense to 125 yards and Windorski leads Warriors offense to 206 yards in the second half after Nate Staehling went down with an injury.
Overall: Brd 3-6, Sar 1-8.
Next: at Bemidji in Section 8-5A semifinals 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26.