High School Football: Cardinals rally to clip Warriors by 1

The Brainerd Warriors opened their season on the road Friday, Aug. 26, at Coon Rapids.

Damien Bentho
Damien Bentho
Kelly Humphrey

COON RAPIDS — Down 20-0 in the third quarter, Coon Rapids was just looking for a spark Friday, Aug. 26.

After Khi’Johnn Cummings-Coleman scored his third touchdown of the game on a 53-yard completion, the Cardinals completed their comeback to knock off the Warriors 21-20 in Week Zero.

“What else do you want in the first game of the year,” Coon Rapids head coach Nick Rushin said. “Not the prettiest game, but we trusted in our boys and we challenged them all camp. There’s something about this group. They found a way to be mentally tough and make enough plays.”

Brainerd recovered a fumble on Coon Rapids’ opening drive of the second half and their first play was a 67-yard touchdown trick play pass from Eli Hoelz to Jake Merseth to give Brainerd a 20-0 advantage.

Coon Rapids came right back with its first scoring drive. It was a nine-play, 75-yard drive which ended on a 4-yard run by Cummings-Coleman.


With 5:19 left in the third quarter, the Cardinals recovered an onside kick to take over at Brainerd’s 41-yardline.

After five plays and 41 yards, the Cardinals scored another touchdown on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Jacob Mattick to Cummings-Coleman to make it 20-14 with 11:45 left.

Cummings-Coleman finished with five catches for 103 yards and ran for 19 yards on two carries.

“It’s what we expect from him,” Rushin said.

The Warriors then had a drive to put the game away. On a second and goal from the 3-yard line, Marcello Getty threw his second interception into the end zone.

Instead of going down two scores with 4:14 left, Coon Rapids took over trailing by one score.

After both teams exchanged possessions, Coon Rapids connected on the game-winning score on a second and 29 with 2:21 left.

“There’s only one way to get better and that’s sometimes to fail,” Warriors head coach Jason Freed said. “Our lack of experience showed at times tonight and momentum swung. And when momentum swings you have to be able to counter and we were there knocking on the door. We just didn’t take advantage of our opportunities.”


Damien Bentho was a bright spot for the Warriors.

The senior running back rushed for 229 yards on 29 carries and two touchdowns.

“I was pleased with our offensive line and I thought Damien ran hard,” Freed said. “Our offense was going to be our best defense at times, but our defense was just on the field way too much in the second half.”

Merseth led the Warriors in receiving with 72 yards.

Mattick threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-32 passing for the Cardinals.

It didn’t start pretty for the Warriors as Bentho lost a fumble inside the 10-yard line on Brainerd’s first drive of the game. In the Warriors’ second drive, Bennett Bernander missed a 25-yard field goal.

After turnovers in two of their first four drives, the Warriors recovered a Coon Rapids fumble at their own 10-yard line. Three plays later, Bentho went 70 yards for his first touchdown of the half and Brainerd took a 6-0 lead.

Coon Rapids quickly went three and out and Brainerd took over with 2:51 left in the half.


The Warriors used five plays in 1:38 capped off by a Bentho 4-yard run to take a 12-0 lead into half.

Bentho rushed for 177 yards on 19 carries in the first half. He also caught one pass for 17 yards.

Getty’s only blemish in the first half was a first-quarter interception. He went 6-for-7 for 64 yards. The Warriors outgained the Cardinals 243-88 in the first half.

The Warriors also forced three first-half turnovers, including interceptions by John Hagen and Derron Tumpkin.

“We just have to learn from the opportunities we had and you don’t learn unless you fail and tonight we had that a few times,” Freed said. “We’ll go back and figure out how to do better.”

Brainerd 0 12 8 0 — 20

Coon Rapids 0 0 7 14 — 21

Second quarter

Brd-Damien Bentho 70-yard run (kick missed) 3:46

Brd-Bentho 4-yard run (pass failed) 1:01

Third quarter

Brd-Eli Hoelz 67-yard pass to Jake Merseth (Getty pass to Hoelz) 11:12

CR-Khi’Johnn Cummings-Coleman 4-yard run (John Patrou kick) 1:17

Fourth quarter

CR-Jacob Mattick 26-yard pass to Cummings-Coleman (Patrou kick) 11:45

CR-Mattick 53-yard pass to Cummings-Coleman (Patrou kick) 2:13

Team Statistics

Rushes-yards: Brd 45-246, CR 33-78

Pass comp-att-int-yds: Brd 8-12-2-138, CR 18-32-1-263

Total offense: Brd 57-394, CR 63-341

Individual leaders

Rushing: Brd-Damien Bentho 29-229, Sean Holbrook 8-34, Eli Hoelz 3-15; CR-Jacob Mattick 14-47, Kingsley Freeman 10-30, Khi’Johnn Cummings-Coleman 2-19

Passing: Brd-Marcello Getty 7-11-71, Eli Hoelz 1-1-67; CR-Jacob Mattick 18-32-263

Receiving: Brd-Jake Merseth 2-72, Damien Bentho 2-24, Dilan Sypnieski 2-22; CR-Cummings-Coleman 5-103, Dominick Oelmann 8-81, Jackson Smith 3-68

Coon Rapids 21, Brainerd 20

Key: The Cardinals scored 21 unanswered points to rally for a one-point win

Overall: Brd 0-1. CR 1-0.

Next: Brainerd hosts Andover 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2.


CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or Follow on Twitter at

Started at the Dispatch in June of 2019.
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