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Boys Soccer: Warriors pay tribute to fallen teammate with season-opening victory

Jake Haapajoki would have been proud of his teammates.

The former Brainerd soccer player, who died in February, had his jersey retired before the Warriors' season opener Thursday, Aug. 24, against the Rogers Royals. Brainerd then went out and beat the Royals 5-2 in a game between Section 8-2A schools.

Brainerd retired Haapajoki's No. 10 jersey, with his name on the back, and presented it to Jake's family during a pregame tribute.

"The entire Haapajoki family was there," Warriors coach Tom Grausam said. "It was a great moment."

Brainerd battled back from a 1-0 first-half deficit and a 2-2 tie with three unanswered goals in the second half.

"It was an emotional game," Grausam said. "The first half I think maybe (the tribute) played a role."

Mason Malone and Jack Thorkelson each scored two goals for the Warriors. Nick Whiteman contributed the other Warrior score. Keeper Noah Sundberg came up with six saves.

"Overall the kids played really well. They fought hard," Grausam said. "We are a well-conditioned team. The ball movement was excellent, our through balls were very good. I think 75 percent of the game we controlled the ball.

"We had plenty of chances. We put one off the post, we shot wide I don't how many times on open nets. It was good to get nerves out the first game, the worries, the feelings. Now they know what they have to do. ... For a first game I was really pleased."

Rogers 1 1—2

Brainerd 0 5—5

First half: R-Carter Raiche 26:00

Second half: B-Mason Malone, B-Jack Thorkelson, R-Alex Reshetar, B-Malone, B-Nick Whiteman, B-Thorkelson

Shots on goal: R 8, B 15

Goalkeepers: R-Samuel Spinler (10 saves); B-Noah Sundberg (6 saves)

Overall: B 1-0. Next: Brainerd at Buffalo 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug 27.