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High School Football: Big plays fuel Brainerd’s first win of 2019

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Brainerd's Owen Davis (left) and Brett Besenfelder celebrate after a touchdown by Davis Friday, Sept. 13, against Sauk Rapids at Adamson Field in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

It was home sweet home for the Brainerd Warriors as they exploded on both offense and defense and secured their first win of the year 26-3 over Sauk Rapids Friday, Sept. 13.

After starting their 2019 season on the road and not putting points on the board in either of their first two games, coming home and getting a score in the first quarter helped get the momentum on their side.

“We made big plays offensively,” Warriors coach Ron Stolski said. “Which is good to see. I thought on defense we played a beautiful game made a lot of stops, but I’m really happy for the kids.”

One of those big plays came in the first quarter, when sophomore quarterback Nate Staehling found senior wideout Owen Davis from 38 yards out for a touchdown with 2:51 left in the first quarter. It was the Warriors' first touchdown of the year.

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“It was really fun,” Davis said of scoring the first touchdown. “It really sets the tone. Especially on a long bomb like that.”

It was not Davis’ only long bomb catch of the game. After the Warriors forced a three and out on defense. They got another touchdown aided by a big play. Senior running back Ben Staelhing scampered for 18 yards followed by another long 27-yard completion to Davis to set up the Warriors with first and goal from the Sauk Rapids 4-yard line.

Davon Stuckey rushed the ball in the endzone on the next play putting the Warriors up 12-0 and after going eight quarters without scoring the Warriors scored on back-to-back drives in the first half.

“We came out with a lot of energy,” Stolski said of his team’s first-half performance. “I think the fact that we are home made a big difference. I think we got a little better tonight, which is what I’ve been preaching.”

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Owen Davis

Sauk Rapids came back with a good drive and kicked a 30-yard field goal, making it 12-3 Warriors. After a Brainerd punt and a Sauk Rapids turnover on downs, Brainerd got the ball with less than two minutes left in the first half.

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They ran a three-play 71-yard drive in 53 seconds highlighted by a Davis 41-yard touchdown catch, his second of the game, which put Brainerd up 20-3 with 51 seconds left in the first half.

“When the defenders come up on me that’s when we throw it deep,” Davis said of his long touchdown catches. “Get that corner cheating and throw long.”

Ben Staehling put together a nice game on the ground. He rushed for 168 yards on 17 carries with 114 of these yards coming in the first half.

“Our line played really well,” Ben Staehling said. “They played well in practice, so I had a feeling we would have a big game.”

Ben Staehling reached the end zone himself with a 2-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter that put the Warriors up 26-3.

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Owen Davis catches a pass to get Brainerd's first score of the year Friday, Sept. 13, against Sauk Rapids at Adamson Field in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The Warrior defense held strong to Sauk Rapids’ spread offense and only allowed 191 total yards of offense. The Storm were only able to get nine first downs and turned the ball over on downs three times.

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“It was exciting to get things going on defense and offense,” senior linebacker Jacob Drietz said. “We are striving for a little more forced turnovers, but we stopped them and did not let them score. They got close a few times, but still didn’t get anything.”

The defensive front of the Warriors was something that impressed Stolski the most.

“They really battled,” Stolski said. “I think resilient is a good word for the defense because we made some stands when it was still a close game.”

Davis finished the game with four catches for 136 yards. Nate Staehling completed only four passes -- all to Davis for those 136 yards. Stuckey rushed for 22 yards and a touchdown on his 11 carries and got more touches against Sauk Rapids than he did against Bemidji.

“It was big for us to finally get a win,” Ben Staehling said. “I think we had a lot of low confidence from not scoring and I think scoring a touchdown really helped our confidence, and I think we'll be fine from here on out.”

Brainerd outgained Sauk Rapids by nearly 200 yards and Sauk Rapids played from behind the whole game, which helped Brainerd’s running game and defense.

The Warriors also cleaned up their penalties issue from last week. After having 10 penalties against Bemidji, they only had two Friday against Sauk Rapids.

“We still have a lot of cleanup work to do,” Stolski said. “It’s a work in progress. We can play better.”

For more photos, go to https://bit.ly/2mi5A5T .

Sauk Rapids 0 3 0 0 -- 3
Brainerd 6 14 6 0 -- 26

First quarter
Brd-Owen Davis 38 pass from Nate Staehling (pass failed) 2:51
Second quarter
Brd-Davon Stuckey 4 run (pass failed) 9:57
SR-Durham Welch 30-yard field goal 3:25
Brd-Davis 41 pass from Nate Staehling (Ben Staehling run) 0:52
Fourth quarter
Brd-Ben Staehling 2 run (pass failed) 11:56
Team statistics
Rushes-yards: Brd 44-218, SR 36-67
Pass comp-att-int-yds: Brd 5-11-144, SR 8-21-124
Total offense: Brd 55-362, SR 57-191

Individual leaders
Rushing: Brd-Ben Staehling 17-168, Davon Stuckey 11-22, Nate Staehling 10-18, Jack Lundstrom 2-4, Brandt Patton 3-4; SR-Tayton Philavanh 9-47, Kobe Lee 12-17, Andrew Wollak 9-2
Passing: Brd-Nate Staehling 4-7-136, Isaiah Windorski 1-1-8; SR-Kobe Lee 8-21-124
Receiving: Brd-Owen Davis 4-136, Brandt Patton 1-8; SR-Christian Rodriguez 5-63, Andrew Wollak 3-61

WARRIORS 26, SAUK RAPIDS 3

Key: Big plays from Brainerd’s offense helped them move the ball and their defense allowed 124 yards of total offense.

Sub: Brd 1-1, SR 1-1

Overall: Brd 1-2, SR 1-2

Next: Brainerd hosts Moorhead 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20.

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