High School Football: Warriors set to face Alexandria in home opener
First-year head coach Jason Freed relied on the ground game and takeaways to earn his first win leading the Brainerd Warriors sideline.
Brainerd outgained the St. Cloud Apollo Eagles 197-66 on the ground led by senior running back Caden Schoeppner’s 103 yards on 22 carries to come away with a 35-30 win.
As Freed prepares a game plan against Brainerd’s new opponent, the Alexandria Cardinals (1-1), he hopes to diversify the play-calling while keeping a steady rushing attack.
RELATED: Football: Big plays propel Brainerd over Apollo in Game One
“(Alexandria) always plays really, really, sound defense,” Freed said. “The running game is going to be a major part of our offense. We feel like we have a diverse running game. We have different guys running the ball, and we are really trying to attack different aspects of the field.
“We also realize as a staff that we cannot be one-dimensional. We need to pick and choose our time to be aggressive and not forget about the passing game. We feel like we have some solid steady receivers that can do a nice job of getting themselves open. We will have to utilize that more and grow as an offense.”
The game against Alexandria Friday, Oct. 23, will be Brainerd’s home opener.
Cardinals coach Mike Empting hopes to use the ground game to his advantage on what is going to be a cold Friday night.
“I feel we need to establish the running game and be able to move the ball on the ground,” he said. “We need to take care of the football. We turned the ball over too many times in our first two games.”
Brainerd’s front seven will look to repeat their outing against Apollo where they forced seven fumbles, recovered four of them, and scored a defensive touchdown.
“I was impressed with our front seven and how they played (last week),” Freed said. “They are not big. We are quick and move a lot. We have to get in the gaps and press the line of scrimmage which I think we did a good job with against Apollo.”
Empting’s team is coming off a 42-0 loss to the reigning Section 8-5A champion Moorhead Spuds last Friday.
“I’m looking for us to rebound from that Moorhead loss,” he said. “And come back with some confidence. I thought we played our first game with some confidence on both sides of the ball, and I felt like we did not have the same swagger and confidence heading into Moorhead. I’d like to see us get that back.”
The key player to watch on Alex’s side is junior quarterback Carter Steffensmeier. He threw two interceptions against Moorhead, but in the Cardinals’ first game threw for 264 yards and three TDs.
“We need our quarterback to play well,” Empting said. “We have some returning starters as well. Nolan Morical was in our backfield last year and he has to be that stable force. He’s a senior and three-year starter for us and he needs to carry the load for us.”
Morical found the endzone four times in Alex’s win over St. Francis Week One.
Freed knows the Cardinals have weapons that will test an inexperienced Warriors defense. Against Apollo, Brainerd struggled against the pass and gave up big plays, including two long touchdown passes.
“(Alexandria) is a big play, explosive offense,” Freed said. “That was our problem last week. We gave up big plays. Our message this week has been to eliminate big plays and we really need to play good sound defense and make them earn their points.”
Even though they came away with the win, Freed knows his team showed inexperience closing out the Apollo game. He thinks his team is ready to respond against Alexandria.
“I think our team is going to see steady improvements as we progress,” Freed said. “It was good to be able to sit down this week and watch the film with the kids and coach them up.”
Weather has played a factor all week. With six inches of snow falling Tuesday, Oct. 20 and another winter storm Thursday, Oct. 22, the weather has affected practices and games throughout the area.
“Wind and weather definitely play a role in how you go about your game plan,” Freed said. “It’s also something that we have to live through and work through. From a preparation standpoint as much as we want to be out in the elements there comes a time and place where you have to be smart and get the most out of your time.”
Last season, the Cardinals blew out the Warriors 47-6. Brained holds the all-time series lead 39-23.
In other Week Two North Central Red Subdistrict action, Bemidji defeated Sartell 48-6 and Willmar beat Sauk Rapids 35-34 in 2OT. This week, Sartell hosts Moorhead and Sauk Rapids hosts Elk River.
Bemidji was scheduled to play at Apollo, but due to COVID, Bemidji will now play Edina. St. Cloud Tech was scheduled to play Rogers, but that game has been postponed.
Brainerd Warriors (1-0)
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
Alexandria Cardinals (1-1)
QB: 11-Carter Steffensmeier
RB: 5-Nolan Morical, 3-Will Heydt, 15-James Schwartz
WR/TE: 13-Kristen Hoskins, 14-Aaron Stotesberry, 19-Zach Gundberg, 4-Ibukun Taiwo, 1-Gavin Ashmore, 2-Elijah Holthaus
OL: 78-Gunner Anderson, 66-Joseph Lanoux, 76-Neko Claser, 74-Noah Capouch, 71-Isaac Kershaw, 68-Preston Peterson, 54-Zander Homelvig
DL: 54-Zander Homelvig, 66-Lanoux, 65-Calen Piepho, 86-Devin Cimbura, 61-Carter Moen, 64-Connor Lay, 68-Preston Peterson, 71-Isaac Kershaw
LB: 9-Wyatt Odland, 36-Aaron Jost, 80-Colton Schabel, 42-Dayton Downing, 12-Brady Anderson, 17-Logan Biggar
CB: 5-Nolan Morical, 3-Will Heydt, 2-Elijah Holthaus, 14-Aaron Stotesberry, 4-Ibukun Taiwo
S: 6-Teagan Pfeffer, 31-Milo Mcdaniels, 7-Grady Anderson
K: 8-Myles Sansted
P: 2-Elijah Holthaus
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.
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 2-0 (1-0), Bemidji 1-1 (1-0), Brainerd 1-0 (0-0), Sartell 1-1 (0-1), Alexandria 1-1 (0-1), Sauk Rapids 0-2 (0-0), St. Cloud Tech 0-1 (0-0)
Week Two Results results
Brainerd 35, St. Cloud Apollo 30
Moorhead 42, Alexandria 0
Bemidji 48, Sartell 6
Willmar 35, Sauk Rapids 34 2OT
Monticello at St. Cloud Tech — canceled
Week Three games
Alexandria at Brainerd
Moorhead at Sartell
Bemidji at Edina
Elk River at Sauk Rapids
St. Cloud Tech at Rogers —- canceled
Total Offense: 63-252
Total Offense: 53-285
Brainerd hosts Alexandria
When: 7 p.m.
Where: at Brainerd High School
Last result: Alexandria won 47-6 in 2019.
The series: Brainerd leads 39-23
Radio: KLIZ-AM (1380)
Web Stream: www.kliz.com.