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High School Football: Warriors come into this week as “one strong chain link”

Brainerd hosts Sartell in high school football Friday, Sept. 16

Brainerd football against Andover on Friday, Sept. 2, 2022, at Brainerd High School.
Brainerd football against Andover on Friday, Sept. 2, 2022, at Brainerd High School.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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It’s been a heavy week for Brainerd football.

With senior captain Conner Erickson still in the hospital with a serious head injury he got in last week’s 27-10 win against Moorhead, Warriors head coach Jason Freed said the team and his coaching staff have been supporting each other throughout the week.

“There’s no coach’s manual for all the things you are going to have to deal with as a coach,” Freed said. “I’ve talked with a lot of people and coaches that have gone through this and they have given a lot of good advice. The best piece of advice is you got to stay together as a family and that’s what we talk about. We use an analogy with our team that we are a chain and we’ve all got to be the strong links of the chain and we have to take care of one another. For us, it’s been a week where we have been rallying each other and picking each other up whether that’s coach to player, coach to coach, player to player or players to coaches. That’s been our mantra from the game Friday night to coming in Monday morning.”

This week the Warriors host the Sartell Sabres (1-2), a North Central Red subdistrict opponent. Last season, the Warriors beat the Sabres 35-6 on the road.

“The game will give everyone an outlet to focus in and I think a lot of the emotion and energy that have come within this week need to be channeled to the focus and intensity that go into the game,” Freed said. “That’s something we work on with our players is having a strong-inner focus when the game comes Friday night and when the game starts we need to dial things in as a whole.”

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Last year, when the two teams met, Sartell's starting quarterback Cole Hentges had just suffered a season ending injury. This year, the Warriors will have to face the senior quarterback, who brings with him all sorts of problems for opposing defenses.

“Their quarterback is very, very good,” Freed said. “He makes a lot of plays with his feet and his arm. We haven’t seen a quarterback like him this year. He’s kind of an improviser, and I think for us we are going to have to be very disciplined on defense because he can make a bad play or broken play into a touchdown. I think a lot of things run through him and they have a lot of good running backs and skill positions. Our mantra is to prevent the big plays and I felt like we did a good job of that against Moorhead.”

Linebacker Dylan Gross is the catalyst for the Brainerd defense so far with a team-leading 30 tackles. Mitch Wind is another force on the defensive line and has a team-leading three sacks.

Last week, the Sabres suffered a 29-14 loss to Rocori. They beat St. Cloud Tech 43-21 in Week Zero and lost to Sauk Rapids 20-12 in Week One.

“We are excited to continue our rivalry with Brainerd,” Sartell’s head coach Scott Hentges said. “We have had a lot of good games with them over the years. We are trying to correct and make fewer mistakes on both sides of the ball. I don’t know a ton about Brainerd, but I know their running back is pretty good. They’re always well coached and it should be a fun matchup.”

Brainerd’s best offense so far has been giving the ball to running back Damien Bentho. In three games, Bentho is averaging 162 yards rushing a game, including 184 yards last week against Moorhead.

Hentges said he’s confident his front seven could slow down Bentho Friday.

“Our guys have done a good job in the first couple of weeks of really stopping the run,” he said. “I think it’s one of the things our defense does well. So you are looking at a strength for Brianerd and also a strength for our defense as well. So we are preparing for a physical game and I think whoever controls the line of scrimmage will get the advantage.”

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Freed said the Sabres’ front-seven was Andover-like in how aggressive they are.

“They are not overly big,” Freed said. “But I think they play with very good speed, so it’s going to be very important to stay on assignment.”

Freed wants to continue to establish the run, but doesn’t want to get too one dimensional.

“If the running is there we are obviously going to use it like we did last week,” Freed said. “We also have to be very balanced and mix in the pass. We need to be focused on being balanced.”

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or conrad.engstrom@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.

Brainerd Warriors (1-2)

Offense

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: 86-Dilan Sypnieski

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

Defense

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

LB: 42-Dylan Gross, 41-Ryan Kennedy, 33-Derron Tumpkin, 16-Ben Grams, 36-Dylan Felske

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 Bernander

Returners: 2-Eli Hoelz, 20-Damien Bentho

Sartell Sabres (1-2)

Offense

QB: 9-Cole Hentges

RB: 21-Gavan Schulte

WR: 19-Aiden Lang, 4-Dylan Simones, 3-Parker Knutson, 24-Andrew Tavale

OL: 61-Kade Lewis, 59-Will Mahowald, 65-Will Brinkerhoff, 60-Hunter Leinen, 54-Luke Steinberg

Defense

DL: 59-Will Mahowald, 64-Julius Morris, 35-Jake Davis

LB: 34-Alex Martins, 14-Anthony Mahowald, 26-Donovan Lund, 28-Kelechi Nwachuku

DB: 12-Logan Legatt, 4-Dylan Simones, 3-Parker Knutson, 21-Gavan Schulte

Special Teams

K: 99-David Binsfled

Returners: 3-Parker Knutson, 21-Gavan Schulte, 4-Dylan Simones, 45-Jameson Kremer, 33-Josh Orjansen, 28-Kelechi Nwachuku

Warriors Schedule

Regular Season

Aug. 26, at Coon Rapids — Lost 21-20

Sept. 2, hosts Andover — Lost 52-14

Sept. 9, at Moorhead — Won 27-10

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 Subdistrict

Subdistrict Records

Brainerd 1-2 (1-0), Alexandria 1-1 (1-0), Sartell 1-2 (0-0), Moorhead 1-1 (0-1), Bemidji 0-2 (0-1)

Week Three Schedule

Sartell at Brainerd

Sauk Rapids at Alexandria

Moorhead at Bemidji

Week Two Results

Brainerd 27, Moorhead 10

Alexandria 41, Bemidji 38

Rocori 29, Sartell 14

Team Stats

Brainerd

Rushing: 122-608

Passing: 21-39-236

Total Offense: 161-844

Opponents

Rushing: 90-307

Passing: 71-114-1,048

Total Offense: 204-1,355

Brainerd vs Sartell
When: 7 p.m.
Where: at Brainerd High School
Series: Brainerd leads 20-6
Last result: Brainerd won 35-6 in 2021
Twitter: @the_rad34
Radio: KLIZ-AM (1380)
Web Stream: www.kliz.com.

Started at the Dispatch in June of 2019.
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