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High School Football: Warriors hope to finally ring Babe’s Bell

Brainerd hosts Bemidji Friday, Sept. 23 at Adamson Field

Brainerd football vs Sartell on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, at Brainerd.
Brainerd's Jake Merseth scores a touchdown against Sartell on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, at Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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Brainerd comes into homecoming weekend red hot.

After dropping their first two games, the Warriors bounced back in North Central Red subdistrict play to knock off Moorhead and Sartell by three scores each.

This week, the Warriors welcome another subdistrict opponent, Bemidji, a team Brainerd has lost the last six meetings too. The hope is the Warriors can finally get their hands on the traveling trophy, Babe’s Bell, which the two teams have played for since 2018.

“It’s not something we want to go over the top with,” Warriors head coach Jason Freed said. “It’s another week and another game. Obviously, it’s a game people get excited about and it’s homecoming. But we are really focused on putting time in our preparation and having good practices so that whether it’s Bemidji or anyone, we play Warrior football.”

The Lumberjacks will enter Adamson Field losers of three straight. Most recently, Bemidji fell to Moorhead which put the Lumberjacks’ record at 0-3.

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“It’s very important for us to focus on what we are doing that is not helping us win football games,” Bemidji head coach Bryan Stoffel said. “Although this is Brainerd-Bemidji week, we have been focused with our kids on what we need to improve on and not so much what Brainerd is going to bring to the game.”

At the halfway point of the season, Freed said his team has improved greatly since August.

“When you have a tough one to start the season like we did, we were able to learn a lot about ourselves and how we deal with adversity,” he said. “I’ve been happy with how our kids have responded and how they come to work every week.”

Stoffel said Bemidji quarterback Peyton Neadeau has done a nice job directing the offense with Quinten Yeung and Ethan Biehin being key weapons.

“Our big playmaker on the offense is Ethan Biehin,” he said. “He’s a three-year starter for us both ways. He’s had some big games already this year. Quinten Yeung is another kid we try to get the football to as much as we can and our quarterback Peyton Neadeau is doing a good job of controlling our triple-option offense.”

Freed said Bemidji’s offense is always tough to gameplan for since it’s a triple-option offense. Where the quarterback has the option to hand the ball off to the lead back into the line of scrimmage, keep the ball and run around the edge or pitch the ball out wide to the trailing running back

“(Triple-option) can give you fits,” Freed said. “I like their quarterback a lot and they have a couple of dynamic skill position players. So our defense is going to have to be very disciplined.”

Seth Newby and Barrick Nelson are both linebackers Stoffel said are key to the Lumberjacks’ defensive success. Nelson, however, is a game-time decision with an injury.

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“There’s a number of kids who have stepped into roles and are pretty fresh in those roles,” Stoffel said. “They are learning on the job and we have to continue to improve on our base rules and be more sound on that end of the football.”

The Warriors’ offense showed diversity in last week’s 34-14 win over Sartell. Quarterback Marcello Getty threw for 152 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-17 passing.

Eli Hoelz hauled in seven catches for 68 yards while Jake Merseth caught four passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns.

“We have a nice mix (at receiver),” Freed said. “Nolan Johnson and Reece Isle get out there as well as Dillon MacLaughlin. Jake and Eli are leading the pack, but it was a group we were fired up about to start the season and they are all just kind of steady eddies. They do the right thing and they are getting better at the little things, like the rest of the team.”

Stoffel had high praise for the Warriors’ coaching staff and weapons.

“I think they have a good scheme on both offense and defense,” he said. “They have some good football players on the defensive side and I like their running back. No. 2 (Eli Hoelz) is also a pretty dynamic athlete for them.”

The Warriors’ defense has had a nose for the football in their first four games. They’ve forced two or more turnovers in every game, including winning the turnover battle 3-0 in both wins.

“Part of it is being in the right place at the right time,” Freed said. “But also it’s the kids understanding what their jobs are and not overplaying their spots. It’s reps in practice, understanding the game and knowing what the opponent is trying to do. And these turnovers come in bunches. I’ve been coaching long enough for teams to feed off and we are constantly practicing turnovers and trying to force them. It’s a hats off to our kids for making those plays.”

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In the win over Sartell, the big turnover was a Ryan Kennedy interception on a fourth and goal from the 1-yard line which he returned for a Brainerd touchdown. John Hagen and Derron Tumpkin each own the team lead in interceptions at two apiece.

Freed said, like Brainerd, Bemidji is much improved from the start of the season.

“I think their offense is really clicking and it’s going to be a test,” he said.

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 (2-2)

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

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

Bemidji Lumberjacks (0-3)

Offense

QB: 16-Peyton Neadeau

RB: 22-Seth Newby, 42-Barrick Nelson

WR: 5-Quinten Yeung, 15-Jack McCrady, 2-Ethan Biehin, 23-Will Zellman, 14-Aiden Neadeau, 62-Owen Lipscy

OL: 67-Charlie Maus, 65-Tom PaQuette, 55-Chase Hendricks, 59-Riley Branson, 77-Delsin Wind

Defense

DL: 60-Johnny Pfaff, 39-Vinnie Moran, 9-Lucas Caron

LB: 42-Barrick Nelson, 6-Jack Caron, 30-Spencer Ness, 22-Seth Newby

DB: 2-Ethan Biehn, 28-Alec Newby, 13-Owen Frazer, 7-Fisher Ganske

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 — Won 34-14

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 2-2 (2-0), Alexandria 1-2 (1-0), Moorhead 2-1 (1-1), Sartell 1-3 (0-1), Bemidji 0-3 (0-2)

Week Four Schedule

Bemidji at Brainerd

Alexandria at Moorhead

Willmar at Sartell

Week Three Results

Brainerd 34, Sartell 14

Sauk Rapids 31, Alexandria 17

Moorhead 35, Bemidji 27

Team Stats

Brainerd

Rushing: 155-704

Passing: 35-56-388

Total Offense: 211-1,092

Opponents

Rushing: 124-394

Passing: 90-145-1,276

Total Offense: 269-1,668

Brainerd vs Bemidji

When: 7 p.m.
Where: at Brainerd High School
Series: Brainerd leads 39-36
Last result: Bemidji wom 19-6 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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