High School Football: Friday Night Lights returns a week early for Brainerd again

Brainerd vs Coon Rapids Football Preview for Week Zero

Brainerd Warriors football has a preseason scrimmage Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, at Adamson Field in Brainerd.
Brainerd Warriors football has a preseason scrimmage Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, at Adamson Field in Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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For the second year in a row, the Brainerd Warriors will start their season a week earlier than normal.

The opponent will be the same as well, as Brainerd travels to Coon Rapids Friday, Aug. 26, for a Week Zero contest.

Last season, Coon Rapids came and played Week Zero at Adamson Field in a game in which the Warriors came away with a 21-6 win.

Although both teams got to see each other last year, both coaches expect to see differences from the previous season.

“You know, every year is a new year,” Coon Rapids head coach Nick Rushin said. “When you play the same opponent there is definitely something you want to take away. It was a good, physical game last year and I think one thing we want to take away from last year is to just hang on to the football. We had about three or four turnovers in the game and that’s not a recipe for success.”


For Brainerd, they had a tune up scrimmage against Rocori last Saturday, an exhibition head coach Jason Freed called a good test for his team.

“Rocori, I would say, is going to be a top five team in Class 4A,” Freed said. “I would be shocked if they are not playing in the state playoffs. They have a really, really good team with a lot of seniors. We got to see a good football team and we competed well. I’m glad we scrimmaged them.”

Football Preview
The 2022 Brainerd Warriors football season preview

Coon Rapids is a big game for the Warriors as it’s their only opportunity to play a 6A opponent. A win Friday would do wonders for Brainerd’s seeding come October.

“You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket, but this game definitely has some weight come playoff time,” Freed said. “It’s an important game and it happens to be the first game of the season, but there are also seven other games that are just as equally important when it comes to balancing out and having a solid record at the end of the year.”

One of the threats for the Cardinals’ offense will be Khi’Johnn Cummings-Coleman, who is a junior wideout.

“He’s really that dynamic athlete for us,” Rushin said. “We are really looking forward to him taking on that offense load and putting him in positions to be successful.”

Another player Rushin likes is Jackson Smith, who they converted from defensive back to wide receiver this year.

On defense, Rushin said senior linebacker Eric Anda is the guy he’s relying on to lead them.


“He is a heck of a football player,” he said. “He might be a little undersized, but he’s smart, intelligent. He got some playing time as a sophomore and started as a junior and he’s the heart and soul of our defense.”

Freed estimated the Cardinals had about a half dozen starters on each side of the ball back when he watched film in preparation.

“They look like they have the playmakers on offense,” he said. “Most of their receivers are back and they have a good quarterback with a dynamic running back. I think for us it’s just going to be playing good, solid defense and trying to limit the big play. On defense, they are very similar to us as they are a 3-4 team. They are really aggressive with their front seven and I think their secondary might be their strength. Their corners look like they tackle really well. I think they are going to be a lot like us and it’s a big game for both of us.”

One thing both coaches agreed on is next year they hope they don’t have to play Week Zero again.

“If you have to do it again I may have to petition,” Freed joked. “Honestly, once you get into it, it’s not that bad because you get into a routine like anything. It does hurt a little bit because it takes away the kids from summer and you just have to be flexible. If there is an advantage to playing Week Zero it’s that bye week and we have that bye week towards the end of the season before the MEA game. So having that bye week is a good mental refresher not just for our kids but our coaching staff, too. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of it though, but I think we’ve handled it well.”

Rushin added: “It’s really tough because at the end of the day it’s out of our control. I think there’s good aspects of it and there’s some bad aspects to it. The good is we get an entire week to worry about football and don’t have teacher workshops worked in. The bad is you lose a week of your summer and you don’t have that juice of the school year yet.”

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

Brainerd Warriors (0-0)


QB: 7-Marcello Getty

RB: 20-Damien Bentho, 18-Sean Holbrook

WR: 2-Eli Hoelz, 10-Nolan Johnson, 14-Reece Isle, 23-Dillon MacLaughlin, 81-Jake Merseth

TE: 21-Connor Erickson, 86-Dilan Sypnieski

OL: 50-Rhyen Buckmaster, 53-Josh Albright, 56-Mitchell Wind, 56-Waylon Larson, 71-Caleb Lange, 75-Kolbie Bernu


DL: 5-Eli Wiskow, 71-Caleb Lange, 56-Mitchell Wind

LB: 42-Dylan Gross, 41-Ryan Kennedy, 33-Derron Tumpkin, 21-Connor Erickson

CB: 11-Brandon Stark, 12-Landon Severson, 17-John Hagen, 23-Dillon MacLaughlin

S: 9-Kade Stengrim, 18-Sean Holbrook

Special Teams

K: 24-Bennett BernanderReturners: 2-Eli Hoelz, 20-Damien Bentho

Coon Rapids Cardinals (0-0)


QB: 8-Jacob Mattick

RB: 24-Kingsley Freeman

WR: 19-Lofton O’Groske, 10-Dominick Oelmann, 1-Jackson Smith, 2-Khi’Johnn Cummiongs-Coleman

OL: 64-Nic Espinosa, 75-Hayden Skillings, 74-Nathan Caminati, 52-Masin Paxton, 71-Trevor Albrecht


DL: 55-Griffin thom, 34-Kenny Wells, 70-Jacoby Peterson

LB: 40-Edward Tabla, 44-Eric Anda, 4-Hunter Allen, 3-Logan Ness

CB: 12-Sean Sullivan, 29-Elijah TablaS: 13-Mark Manders, 7-Hunter Thompson

Special Teams

K: 82-John Patrou

Warriors Schedule

Regular Season

Aug. 26, at Coon Rapids 7 p.m.

Sept. 2, hosts Andover 7 p.m.

Sept. 9, at Moorhead 7 p.m.

Sept. 16, hosts Sartell 7 p.m.

Sept. 23, hosts Bemidji 7 p.m.

Sept. 30, at Alexandria 7 p.m.

Oct. 7, at Rogers 7 p.m.

Oct. 19, hosts Buffalo 7 p.m.

Class 6A Playoffs

Oct. 28: Round One of Class 6A Playoffs

Nov. 4: Round Two of Class 6A Playoffs

Nov. 10-12: Class 6A Quarterfinals

Nov. 17-19: Class 6A Semifinals

Dec. 2: Class 6A Finals

North Central Red SubdistrictSubdistrict Records

Moorhead 0-0 (0-0), Bemidji 0-0 (0-0), Brainerd 0-0 (0-0), Alexandria 0-0 (0-0), Sartell 0-0 (0-0)

Week Zero Schedule

Brainerd at Coon Rapids, 7 p.m.

Team StatsBrainerd

Rushing: 0-0

Passing: 0-0-0

Total Offense: 0-0


Rushing: 0-0

Passing: 0-0-0

Total Offense: 0-0

Brainerd at Coon Rapids
When: 7 p.m.
Where: at Coon Rapids
Series: Brd leads 4-2
Last result: Brainerd won 21-6 in 2021
Twitter: @the_rad34
Radio: KLIZ-AM (1380)
Web Stream:

Started at the Dispatch in June of 2019.
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