Brainerd struck so quickly it was shocking, building a 28-3 first-quarter lead. The Warriors went on to defeat visiting Cambridge-Isanti 35-10 in the Oct. 25 Section 8AAAAA opener to advance to Saturday’s semifinals.
No. 2 seed Brainerd will host No. 3 St. Cloud Tech, a 35-28 winner over Buffalo Tuesday eve. The other semis pairing will be No. 1 Elk River hosting No. 4 Moorhead (a 50-30 winner over Duluth East).
Warrior halfback Nick Welch took the first handoff and sprinted 53 yards to the C-I 10. Two plays later, he scored on a 10-yard sweep to the left.
The Jackets answered with a solid scoring drive as Clayton Jennissen completed an out to Jonah Poppen and twice found Ryan Epsen on slants. Trent Chromy’s hard running also highlighted the drive which stalled in the red zone when a false start was called against C-I. The Jackets settled for a 28-yard Josh Rouse field goal.
A huge Logan Davis kick return set up Brainerd in C-I territory, and on the second play of the series Welch took a pitch-right and weaved on a 44-yard scoring run to make it 14-3. The Jackets went 3-and-out on their next possession, however, and Welch took the next carry untouched for 75 yards for a 21-3 Brainerd lead.
Brainerd’s Logan McCallister came through with a strip sack on the next Jacket series, with the Warriors recovering at the C-I 23. It took just two plays to score when QB Mitchell Mclain gathered a bobbled snap and went up the middle for the 16-yard score and 28-3 edge with 53 seconds left in the first stanza.
The Jackets recovered a muffed punt inside Brainerd ground after their next series but couldn’t cash in. They also were driving well late in the first half until Warrior Cole Davis picked off a pass at the 10.
It took Brainerd nearly five minutes to score on its first possession of the second half, converting a 4th-and-7 with a 26-yard scoring screen pass to Davis. The Bluejackets (1-8) added one last score with a prolonged drive into the fourth quarter, capped by a 1-yard keeper from Jennissen.
FINAL: Rogers 5-1, 7-1; St. Michael-Alb. 5-2, 6-2; Elk River 5-2, 6-2; Monticello 4-3, 5-3; Becker 4-3, 5-3; Buffalo 2-5, 2-6; Big Lake 1-5, 3-5; Cambridge-Isanti 1-5, 1-7. Section 8AAAAA: Elk River 6-2, St. Cloud Tech 6-2, Brainerd 5-3, Moorhead 3-5, Duluth East 3-5, Buffalo 2-6, Cambridge-Isanti 1-7.