It’s a respectful rivalry.
That’s how first-year Warriors head coach Jason Freed described the Brainerd-Bemidji matchup coming up Friday, Oct. 30, at Adamson Field.
“It’s a fun game against Bemidji,” Freed said. “We’ve known their staff for a long time. Coach (Bryan) Stoffel is a good friend of mine and the kids respect one another. It’s a fun game every year that the kids get excited for.”
The Warriors are coming off a 49-14 loss to the Alexandria Cardinals, where Brainerd surrendered 28 unanswered points in the second half. The scoring outburst came after Brainerd cut a once 21-0 Alex lead to 21-14 in the third quarter.
“We are focused on just getting better,” Freed said. “For us, it’s getting better fundamentally and more on assignment. We took a lot of time watching film and realized we gave up some big plays on defense. For us it’s just dialing in on those mistakes. By the time you reach Weeks Three and Four of your schedule, you need to start getting rid of those mistakes you made in games one and two.”
Bemidji faced different challenges last week. Originally, the Lumberjacks were scheduled to face St. Cloud Apollo — an opponent Brainerd defeated 35-30.
However, COVID-19 happened, forcing the Lumberjacks to find another opponent. They ended up taking a bus ride to play Edina.
The Lumberjacks returned to Bemidji with a 35-0 win.
“I told them after the game that I’ve never been more proud of a group of kids,” Bemidji head coach Bryan Stoffel said. “To go through what they did that week and go down to Edina and be so well prepared, that's a credit to the kids and the coaching staff.”
Bemidji makes its mark on defense. So far, the Lumberjacks have allowed 23 points in their first three games. The last two games featured a shutout of Edina on short notice and a 48-6 victory over Section 8-5A foe Sartell.
“We talked about after that week of playing up to a standard,” Stoffel said. “We set the standard against Sartell and the challenge has been to uphold that standard and continue to play at the level we are capable of and that continues this week.
“We are going to have to contain the quarterback. I know (Nathaniel) Staehling is kind of the guy that makes their offense go. The running back is pretty good as well and we always have to worry about Brainerd’s offensive line. That’s been a staple of their program for many years.”
Freed knows the challenge Bemidji’s defense brings to his Warrior offense.
“Bemidji is a very well-balanced football team,” Freed said. “Defensively, they are quick, not overly big, but they run really well to the football. For us, we are just going to have to be very disciplined on offense. That’s going to be the core for us as well as ball control. We are also going to have to be balanced.”
Offensively, Bemidji has multiple weapons to test Brainerd’s defense. Last week, the Warriors’ defense gave up 269 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns to Kristin Hoskins of Alexandria.
Last year, Bemidji running back Will Falldorf rushed for 212 yards and three touchdowns in the first Brainerd-Bemidji matchup.
Falldorf did more of the same in the Section 8-5A semifinals. He rushed for 133 yards on 16 carries, including a 60-yard touchdown run to advance the Lumberjacks into the section finals.
Now a senior, Falldorf isn’t the only player the Warriors are worried about.
“It starts with our quarterback Brett Tharaldson,” Stoffel said. “He’s a three-year starter now and he had a nice game against Edina. There’s a group that we try to give the football to, and hopefully we ride the hot hand as the game goes on.”
Freed added: “They’re not a team where you can really key in on one guy. They’re doing a really good job of spreading the ball around within their offense. They have a lot of weapons and a lot of guys who can make plays. We are just going to have to be very disciplined on defense.”
The Lumberjacks are a triple-option team, however, so expect more runs than passes.
“We like to try and get the kids to focus on not playing a man, but playing an area when you play a team like (Bemidji),” Freed said. “Whether a team runs triple-option or RPOs (Run-pass-options) you need to be disciplined within your area of the defense.”
Both coaches are trying to keep their players focused during a rivalry game week.
“It’s a huge rivalry game and I don’t think we need to say much to get excited to play Brainerd,” Stoffel said. “I’ve been pretty blessed to be a part of this rivalry for 10 years now so we know what’s at stake and what type of tough, physical Brainerd teams we are going to see.”
In other North Central Red Subdistrict Week Three action, Moorhead topped Sartell 56-14 and Sauk Rapids fell to Elk River 44-38. In Week Four, Moorhead hosts Rogers, Alexandria hosts Sartell and St. Cloud Tech returns to the field after a two-week break to play at Sauk Rapids.
Brainerd Warriors (1-1)
QB: 16-Nathaniel Staehling, 12-Isaiah Windorski
RB: 20-Caden Schoeppner, 45-Gabe Wagner, 38-Trevor Jechorak
WR: 7-Jacob Smith, 21-Brandt Patton, 14-Simon Foss, 2-Jed Klang, 8-Matt Huesmann, 15-Cole Beyer, 11-Ethan Windorski
TE: 88-Andrew Albright, 84-Mitchell Degen, 18-RJ Campbell
OL: 51-Ethan Strong, 58-Aden Crabb, 60-Dominik Waytashek, 57-Carter Springer, 66-Caden Jager, 67-Jacob Borgstrom, 72-Nolan Reynolds, 76-Elijah Hanson, 77-Elijah Rock
DL: 5-Andrew Thielke, 79-Chandler DeRosier, 74-Ryan Cook, 53-Grant Gardiepy, 54-Riley DeRosier, 42-Chase Bentler, 41-Eli Biggs, 55-Max Olson, 75-DeShawn Brown, 92-Delon Kosloski, 64-Dalton Barrett, 74-Cole Larkin
LB: 40-Forrest Gibson, 50-Jacob Holm, 25-Cam Langerman, 30-Kouper Seidl, 52-Brady Toensing, 60-Dylan Wgeishofski, 44-Dante Bernal, 56-Jonas Ewald
DB: 10-Harry Carlson, 21-Brandt Patton, 24-Jack Lundstrom, 22-Aden Extrand, 35-Aaron Stark, 82-Ethan Olson, 28-Zach Horn, 27-Dawon Piepho, 47-Alex Helmin, 26-Gavin Schwen, 23-Jaiden McLanahan, 31-Ethan Derosier
K: 17-Aiden Brown, 86-Jeremy Duff
P: 16-Nathaniel Staehling, 2-Jed Klang
Returners: 20-Caden Schoeppner, 21-Brandt Patton
Bemidji Lumberjacks (2-1)
QB: 12-Brett Tharaldson
RB: 20-Will Falldorf, 1-Gemini Ellis
WR/TE: 14-Matt Arel, 25-Colton Hinrichs, 16-Jacob Kelly, 4-James Williams, 18-Noah Leffelman, 11-Aaron Hoefer, 88-Gavin Luksik
OL: 79-Jared Frenzel, 65-Dylan Sweeney, 67-Tyler Simon, 57-Dylan Headbird, 54-Isaac Frenzel, 58-Cade Staker
DL: 7-Nate Schwinghammer, 69-Jack Twelevetrees, 9-Isaiah Rintala
LB: 25-Colton Hinrichs, 44-Dakota Canty, Grant Declusin, 88-Gavin Luksik
CB: 13-Brandon Lussier, 2-JD Kondos, 3-Ethan Biehn
S: 6-Isaiah Beihn, 24-Caden Bolte
Oct. 9, at Cambridge-Isanti — canceled
Oct. 17, at St. Cloud Apollo 6 p.m. — won 35-30
Oct. 23, hosts Alexandria 7 p.m. — lost 49-14
Oct. 30, hosts Bemidji 7 p.m.
Nov. 6, at Moorhead 7 p.m.
Nov. 12, hosts Sartell 7 p.m.
Section 8-5A Playoffs
Nov. 17, opening round 7 p.m.
Nov. 21, semifinals 2 p.m.
Nov. 27, finals 7 p.m.
North Central Red Subdistrict
Moorhead 3-0 (2-0), Bemidji 2-1 (1-0), Alexandria 2-1 (1-1), Brainerd 1-1 (0-1), Sartell 1-2 (0-2), Sauk Rapids 0-3 (0-0), St. Cloud Tech 0-1 (0-0)
Week Three Results results
Alexandria 49, Brainerd 14
Moorhead 56, Sartell 12
Bemidji 35, Edina 0
Elk River 44, Sauk Rapids 38
St. Cloud Tech at Rogers — canceled
Week Four games
Bemidji at Brainerd
Sartell at Alexandria
Rogers at Moorhead
St. Cloud Tech at Sauk Rapids
Total Offense: 96-464
Total Offense: 93-734
Brainerd hosts Bemidji
When: 7 p.m.
Where: at Brainerd High School
Last result: Bemidji won 47-18 in the 2019 Section 8-5A semifinals.
The series: Brainerd leads 39-34
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