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High School Football: Warriors take down Sabres

Brainerd hosts Sartell Friday, Sept. 16

Brainerd football players celebrate recovering a fumble.
Brainerd players celebrate recovering a Sartell fumble Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, at Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — It was a fun night to be a Warrior Friday, Sept. 16.

Behind 28 first-half points, Brainerd cruised to a 34-14 subdistrict win over the Sartell Sabres at Adamson Field.

“We talked about how we had to come in focused and dialed up,” Warriors head coach Jason Freed said. “I thought the kids came out and were calm. Tonight, we could’ve set ourselves up for crazy emotions to start the game and we could’ve spiked, but I thought our guys played very focused and it showed on both sides of the ball.”

Quarterback Marcello Getty was calm and collected in the first half. He completed 10-for-11 for 117 yards and two touchdowns and finished with 152 yards on 14-17 passing.

“Marcello is coming along,” Freed said. “He’s learned a lot and I think he is feeling confident in himself. We talked about that we had to show balance because they were going to be aggressive and try to get negative plays. I thought we took what they gave us and made them defend the whole field.”

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Jake Merseth caught two of those touchdowns and finished with four catches for 68 yards.Eli Hoelz caught seven passes for 68 yards and Damien Bentho ran the ball for 76 yards on 19 carries.

After the Warriors defense opened with a three and out, Brainerd marched down the field on a seven-play, 59-yard drive which resulted in a 19-yard touchdown pass from Getty to Merseth.

Brainerd forced another Sabres punt and went 71 yards on 14 plays to take a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Dylan Gross ran the ball in from 1-yard out. Hoelz had five catches on that scoring drive.

Sartell then drove the ball down to Brainerd’s 1-yard line. On fourth and goal, Sartell’s quarterback Cole Hentges rolled out and looked to find Gavan Schulte in the end zone. Brainerd linebacker Ryan Kennedy tipped the pass and intercepted it for a 85-yard pick-six.

“When I saw the quarterback rolling away and there was no one to cover I tried to make a play and got a lucky bounce,” Kennedy said.

Freed enjoyed the 14-point swing and the Warriors took a 21-0 lead with 6:23 left in the first half.

“That was a huge momentum swing,” he said.

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Brainerd wasn’t done. After they recovered a Sartell fumble at their own 49, Brainerd used seven plays to score another touchdown. Getty found Merseth from 35-yards to make it 28-0.

On that drive, the Warriors had fourth and 14 and were lined up to punt. After a bobbled snap, punter Ayden Carranza scampered for 15 yards and the first down. Three plays later Getty found Merseth for their second touchdown connection.

Brainerd’s offense stalled in the second half going three and out in its first four drives.

Sartell took advantage. Hentges found Dylan Simones for a 63-yard touchdown pass to open the second half for the Sabres. That was followed by a Simones 2-yard touchdown two drives later to make it 28-14 with 10:01 left.

The Sabres were driving to make it a one-score game before Derron Tumpkin intercepted Hentges at the 43 yard line.

“We just have great leadership on the defense,” Kennedy said.

Brainerd then milked some clock and went 10 plays for 57 yards which resulted in a Bentho 4-yard touchdown run to ice the game.

Freed would like his team to play more disciplined, however, as the Warriors were called for nine penalties for 83 yards.

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“It was just focus,” Freed said. “We need to not worry about the emotional part of things. Most of those penalties were just letting the emotion get the best of you.”

The Warriors move to 2-0 in subdistrict play and 2-2 overall. They will host Bemijid next week for homecoming.

The team wore number 21 decals on the back of their helmets to remember senior captain Conner Erickson, who is still in the hospital following an injury he suffered in the Warriors 27-10 win last week.

“I want to thank the whole Brainerd community for rallying here,” Freed said. “I thought we had a great turnout tonight and just rallying behind the Erickson family. This was a big deal and it’s just a sign of what this community is really about.”

Sartell 0 0 6 8 — 14

Brainerd 7 21 0 6 — 34

First quarter

Brd-Jake Merseth 19-yard pass from Marcello Getty (Bennett Berander kick) 7:09

Second quarter

Brd-Dylan Gross 1-yard run (Berander kick) 10:33

Brd-Ryan Kennedy 85-yard interception return 6:23

Brd-Merseth 35-yard pass from Getty (Berander kick) 0:59

Third quarter

Sar-Dylan Simones 63-yard pass from Cole Hentges (run failed) 9:34

Fourth quarter

Sar-Simones 2-yard run (Aiden Lwang from Hentges) 10:01

Brd-Damien Bentho 4-yard run (kick failed) 2:18

Team statistics

Rushes-yards: Brd 34-87, Sar 33-96

Pass comp-att-int-yds: Brd 14-17-152, Sar 19-31-2-226

Total offense: Brd 51-248, Sar 64-313

Individual leaders

Rushing: Brd-Damien Bentho 19-76, Ayden Carranza 1-15, Eli Hoelz 2-5, Dylan Gross 2-2; Sar-Gavan Schulte 8-34, Donovon Lund 6-29

Passing: Brd-Marcello Getty 14-17-152; Sar-Cole Hentges 19-31-226

Receiving: Brd-Eli Hoelz 7-68, Jake Merseth 4-68, Nolan Johnson 2-18; Sar-Andrew Tavale 7-74, Dylan Simones 3-77, Gavan Schulte 3-12

Warriors 34, Sartell 14

Key: 28-0 halftime lead for Brainerd off two touchdowns by Jake Merseth
Subdistrict: Brd 2-0, Sar 0-1
Overall: Brd 2-2, Sar 1-3.
Next: Brainerd hosts Bemidji 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23.

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

Started at the Dispatch in June of 2019.
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