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It was a school record-tying, and school record-breaking, weekend for Brainerd Warrior athletics. Friday, Dec. 7, Joey Sauer tied a school record set 57 years ago by scoring 41 points in a boys basketball game at Sauk Rapids-Rice. Saturday, Dec. 8, the Warrior wrestling team captured only the second Paul Bunyan Invitational title in program history, and its first since 1988. Brainerd outdistanced runner-up and defending champion Frazee by 21.5 points in the 52nd annual event.
The Brainerd Warriors captured their first Paul Bunyan Invitational team title since 1988, and only the second title in program history, Saturday, Dec. 8, at Brainerd High School. Brainerd won the 52n annual and 13-team tournament with 182 points. Runner-up Frazee accumulated 160.5 points. The Pierz Pioneers finished fifth, Staples-Motley Cardinals 10th and Little Falls Flyers 11th. Winning titles for Brainerd were Atlie Danielson (120), Denny Busbey (132) and Kyle Patnode (138). Kyle Eschenbacher was runner-up at 126 and Cade Barrett was second at 220.
A 3-goal second period guided the Benilde-St. Margaret's Red Knights to a 3-1 victory over the Brainerd Warriors in the North-South Classic at Essentia Health Sports Center Friday, Dec. 7. Cooper Gay, Blake Mesenburg and James Callahan tallied for BSM, which outshot the Warriors 28-22. Knights' goalie Carson Limesand stopped 21 shots.
Several marquee players will hit the ice at Essential Health Sports Center in Brainerd for the North-South Classic Friday, Dec. 7, and Saturday, Dec. 8. Benilde St. Margaret's, the Brainerd Warriors' opponent Friday, features players like defenseman Nate Schweitzer (a Colorado College commit) and forward Blake Mesenburg. Red Knights coach Ken Pauly said Schweitzer and Mesenburg are two of the state's top high school players and both played in the Elite League this fall. Hermantown's Blake Biondi is a Division I commit to Minnesota-Duluth. He scored 30 goals last year. Seniors Brady Baker, Elliott Peterson, Justin Thomas and sophomore Joey Pierce are among the Hawks' top forwards, according to Hawks coach Patrick Andrews.
Essentia Health Sports Center in Brainerd will be site of the second annual North-South Classic Friday, Dec. 7, and Saturday, Dec. 8. The event will kick off Friday with the Eden Prairie Eagles playing the Hermantown Hawks at 6 p.m. followed by the Brainerd Warriors and Benilde-St. Margaret Red Knights at approximately 8 p.m. Saturday's games will feature Brainerd and Hermantown at 12:30 p.m. and Benilde-St. Margaret's vs. Eden Prairie at 2:30 p.m.
Coming off Section 8-2A True Team and Section 8-2A championships, the Brainerd Warriors return five performers who were major point-scorers last season. But the challenge for head coach John Zemke and his staff is to fill in around that nucleus and replace graduates like Michael Bylander, Gunnar Niemeyer and Preston Owen who combined to win six section titles on their way to the state meet. The trio accounted for 1,268 team points. How will Brainerd replace that horsepower?
Thank goodness for running time. In a game between Section 8-2A schools, that unfortunately got out of hand, the Brainerd/Little Falls Warriors peeled the Moorhead Spuds 13-0 at Essentia Health Sports Center Tuesday, Dec. 4. BLF pumped in nine goals in the first two periods, kicking running time into effect for the final 17 minutes. BLF outshot the Spuds by a whopping 60-5, limiting winless Moorhead to one shot in each of the second and third periods. Three Warrior goals were registered on power plays.
With the resignation of Mike Boran following last season, Mikkey White steps in as the sole head coach of the Brainerd Warriors. White served as co-head coach with Boran the last two seasons. White said his biggest change since taking over has been the addition of the behind the scenes work that accompanies the role of a sole head coach.
It wasn't the start the Brainerd Warriors were hoping for. Not only did the Warriors lose their season opener 5-1 to the Moorhead Spuds. They got down 2-0 in the first five minutes and couldn't recover in a game between Section 8-2A schools at Essentia Health Sports Center Tuesday, Nov. 27. Moorhead scored the game's first three goals and the last two which were sandwiched around Brainerd's only goal by Wyatt Andres in the second period.
Teams that have combined to win seven state championships and make 29 state tournament appearances will provide the opposition for the Brainerd Warriors in the North-South Classic Dec. 7-8 at Essentia Health Sports Center.