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High School Football: Elk River turning program around

Warriors vs. Elk River When: Noon Saturday Where: Adamson Field, Brainerd Last meeting: Brainerd won 55-7 in Section 8-5A quarterfinals The series: Brainerd leads 7-5 Twitter: @bertsballpark Radio: KLIZ-AM (1380) Web stream: www.brainerdradio.net...

Warriors vs. Elk River

When: Noon Saturday

Where: Adamson Field, Brainerd

Last meeting: Brainerd won 55-7 in Section 8-5A quarterfinals

The series: Brainerd leads 7-5

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Twitter: @bertsballpark

Radio: KLIZ-AM (1380)

Web stream: www.brainerdradio.net .

In the seven years before Steve Hamilton became head coach at Elk River, the Elks won a combined total of 10 games.

Since his arrival in 2011, the Elks have on the road to respectability, compiling a 22-19 mark. Last season they reached the Section 6-5A finals where they lost to St. Michael-Albertville.

The Elks were an offensive juggernaut in 2014, led by standout running back Zach Ernst who gained 1,835 yards and scored 21 TDs. Elk River outscored the opposition 354-287.

Hamilton is forthright about the potential of this year's team.

"This team is the best team I've had since I've been here," said Hamilton, who previously was a head coach for four years in Georgia and nine in Michigan.

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His optimism this fall is based on the fact the Elks return about half of their starters from a year ago, including senior quarterback Trent Pink who rushed for 615 yards and 16 scores. He attempted just 32 passes, completing 20, for four TDs an offense that features two right ends and a full-house backfield.

"It definitely will be the most talented backfield we've had," Hamilton said. "We've got probably nine running backs that play a lot. A lot of guys will be running in and out there. We have a lot of depth there."

Elk River will open minus three injured starters, one of whom is junior lineman Jalon Nielson, the Elks' co-offensive MVP as a sophomore. Another is sophomore Ronnie Audette, a 6-3, 310-pound lineman who's being recruited by Wisconsin and other Division I schools.

"They're some pretty talented kids," Hamilton said of the injured players. "Of course we're blessed to have a 6-4, 220-pound quarterback who ran 4.57 (40-yard dash) when he went to Iowa (camp). He's got to be a difference-maker for us. This will be his third year as a starter. We may have to rely on him more at the beginning of the year with our guys out.

"The great thing in Minnesota compared to Georgia and Michigan where I've been before is we're all in the playoffs. It's not how we start. It's how we are at the end."

Having never played Brainerd - the teams last met in the 2008 Section 8-5A playoffs - Hamilton isn't sure what to expect from the Warriors.

"We've never had any experience going against them," Hamilton said. "We played Moorhead a couple times, we played Willmar, that's about it for what was the (Central Lakes Conference)."

Brainerd Warriors

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OFFENSE

WR: 2-Chris Pederson, 7-Brady Kline, 20-Luke Wiskow, 8-Riley Fabian, 12-Cade Pikula, 82-Ryan Miller, 81-Max Boran, 26-Matt O'Reilly,

Slot: 11-Colton Borg, 15-Will Peabody, 85-Sam Nesheim, 84-Jordan Whitehead

OT: 52-Ryan Powers, 51-Josh Howieson, 75-Mike Bieganek, 74-Hunter Erickson, 65-Sam Olson, 77-Landon Lundeby

G: 55-Seth Desrocher, 53-Arron Martin, 57-Zach Stangl, 66-Brian Barajas, 72-Evan Schreifels, 68-Justin Banks

C: 50-Sean Laughton, 55-Seth Desrocher, 76-Will Schneider

QB: 10-Hanson Devine, 2-Chris Pederson, 15-Will Peabody

RB: 40-Mitchell Rahn, 21-Allen Jevning, 25-Jacob Ebinger, 28-Charlie Geraets, 34-Max Zimmerman, 27-Matt Hill

DEFENSE

DL: 51-Josh Howieson, 91-Greg Rider, 47-Dylan Crandall, 54-Josh Rushmeyer, 56-Trenton Rushmeyer, 55-Seth Desrocher, 58-Jared Lane, 95-Isaak Hines, 78-Kaleb Cherne, 94-Kyler Yerks, 92-Tate Arntson

LB: 5-Tristan Brecht, 53-Arron Martin, 36-C.J. Wohl, 35-Brandon Justin, 42-Luke Johnson, 44-James Loveless, 46-Nathan King, 46-Brandon Tandeski, 45-Josh Bock

CB: 24-Nick Peterson, 23-Cole Harmer, 21-Allen Jevning, 20-Luke Wiskow, 33-Cody Christianson, 30-Tanner Clink, 14-Caleb Meyer, 22-Keywon Jackson

S: 2-Chris Pederson, 20-Luke Wiskow, 25-Jacob Ebinger, 16-Jake Berg, 31-Corbin Pikula, 41-Devan Liebeg

SPECIAL TEAMS

Punter: 2-Chris Pederson, 41-Devan Liebeg

Kicker: 89-David Saxum

Elk River Elks

OFFENSE

TE: 4-Jake Hanson

TE: 44-Cole Daleiden

T: 50-Connor Detloff

T: 57-Alex Haessly

G: 55-Josh Peterson

G: 60-Connor Bryan

C: 63-Brendan Simmonds

QB: 18-Trent Pink

HB: 15-Sam Gibas

HB: 17-Kyle Ziemer

FB: 29-Nick Rice

DEFENSE

E: 50-Connor Detloff

NG: 75-Zach Cramond

E: 86-Alex Haessly

ILB: 55-Josh Peterson

ILB: 33-Dylan Diehl

OLB: 4-Jake Hanson

OLB: 15-Sam Gibas

CB: 9-Justin Streifel

CB: 18-Trent Pink

S: 11-Colin Lea

S: 17-Kyle Ziemer

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker: 5-Austin Solors

Punter: 9-Justin Streifel

Warriors schedule

Aug 22, Elk River 7 p.m.

Aug 28, St. Cloud Apollo 7 p.m.

Sept 4, at Willmar 7 p.m.

Sept 11, Sauk Rapids-Rice 7 p.m.

Sept 18, at Moorhead 7 p.m.

Sept 25, at Alexandria 7 p.m.

Oct 3, Sartell 2 p.m. homecoming

Oct 8, at Bemidji 7 p.m.

MIKE BIALKA may be reached at mike.bialka@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark .

Related Topics: BRAINERD WARRIORS
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