Brainerd blasts past Bluejackets in semis

Football Playoffs: Warriors stack up early 31-0 lead; Moose-Lake keeps rolling past Braham in 7AA

Brainerd scored the first five times it had the ball, including returning two punts for touchdowns, in the 38-3 home victory over Cambridge-Isanti in the Section 8AAAAA semifinals the afternoon of Oct. 31.

Warrior Aaron Pavek sacked C-I QB Wade Smethers, one of the several times the defensive end created havoc in the Jacket backfield in the semifinal game.

Following a tipped punt, the Warriors scored on its opening 49-yard drive, then Kyle Crocker returned the next C-I punt 57 yards for a quick 14-0 lead. A short punt gave the Warriors good field position again, and they cashed in on a 55-yard drive to lead 21-0 with 37 seconds left in the first quarter.

On the Jackets' next punt, Crocker weaved his way for 52 yards on the return, reaching the end zone again for a 28-0 edge. The Jackets' fifth 3-and-out series was followed by Brainerd driving 60 yards and converting a 27-yard field goal.

The Jackets' one bright blip in the first half came when Eric Mielke set a team record with a 44-yard field goal on the final play, his 8th FG of the season. 31-3 Brainerd at the break.

Brainerd picked off C-I's first pass of the second half, and the offense went 25 yards to score on a 2-yard run for the 38-3 edge. The Jackets drove to the Brainerd 18, but that possession ran out of downs. The fourth quarter went to running time, sending the Warriors quickly to the Section 8AAAAA finals.

No. 2 seed Brainerd (7-3) will take on top-seed Buffalo (8-1) Nov. 7 at St. John's University in the championship. The Bison squeaked past St. Cloud Tech 14-9 in their semifinal match.

Bluejacket defenders Sean Eastlund and Peter Johnson hold tough on a goal-line stand in the third quarter vs. Brainerd.

The Bluejackets finished the season with a 6-4 overall record.

Brainerd 38, Cambridge-Isanti 3
    C-I    Brnd
First Downs    5    14
Att/Yards rushing    25/46    43/189
Yards passing    69    91
  Att/Comp/Int.    17/4/1    10/8/0
Total net yards    115    280
Fumbles/lost    0    0
Penalties    5/40    5/30
Punts/avg.    6/28.5    2/44.0   

Bluejacket Individual Stats
Rushing: C.Jennissen 6/17; S.Gifford 7/15; N.Scherer 3/12; W.Smethers 3/1; E.Johnson 6/1.
Passing: W.Smethers 6/0/0; C.Jennissen 11/4/1- 69 yds.
Receiving: N.Scherer 3/65; G.Hedberg 1/4.
Kicking: E.Mielke 44-yd FG, 1 kickoff 13 yds. C.Asmus 6 punts 28.5 avg.
Tackle leaders: M.Dahlquist 25, K.Asmus 19, D.Swanson 9, C.Reilly 7.5, C.Jennissen 8, N.Scherer 6, P.Christenson 5.5, W.Smethers 4.5, A.O'Rourke 3 (sack).
Returns: Kickoff– N.Scherer 4/68, K.Daniels 1/33, J.Locken 1/14.

Section 7AA: Moose Lake-Willow River 33, Braham 0
The top-seed Rebels remained undefeated by shutting out No. 5 seed Braham 33-0 in the Section 7AA semifinals Oct. 31, ML-WR's second sound defeat of the Bombers this season.  

After trading punts, Braham put together a good drive in the first quarter, reaching the Rebel red zone before an interception at the 12-yard line ended that threat. Moose Lake then answered by rolling downfield on 12 plays, scoring an an 11-yard run for a 7-0 lead. The teams battled each over the next three series, forcing three punts, before the Rebels broke off a 52-yard run, setting up a 3-yard scoring rush for a 14-0 lead at the half.

Moose Lake maintained its momentum to start the second half, going 57 yards on seven plays and finishing with a 19-yard TD run. Braham's last good chance to stay in the game came on the next possession when a pair of 15-yard completions from Mike Strelow to Tyler Vaughan helped the team again reach the red zone. But an 8-yard sack on 1st down and two later incompletions ended that chance at the 10.

The Rebels iced the game by driving the length of the field again on 14 plays, scoring on a 1-yard run just into the fourth quarter. They added an icing TD on a 22-yard reception with 3:34 to play for the final 33-0 score.

Braham ends the season with a 4-6 mark, an autumn Coach Kuhnke has seen continued strides from his team.
“The difference between this season and last season is we found ways to win and come out on top. Last year we lost six games by one possession. This year, we were able to come out on top in a few of those games,” he said. “Many of our guys were able to gain very valuable playing experience, especially for being so young as a team.  We started three seniors on offense and two on defense, so we will have a lot of experience returning.”

Moose Lake-Willow River (11-0) will take on No. 2 Rush City (7-3) in the Nov. 6 section finals, played at Duluth Public Stadium (7 p.m.). The Tigers beat up No. 3 Deer River 33-6 in their semifinal battle. The Rebels nipped Rush City 24-22 in the second game of the season.

Moose Lake-WR 33, Braham 0
    BR    MLWR
First Downs    15    24
Att/yards rushing    24/90      50/361
Yards passing    132    58
  Att/Comp/Int.    31/10/1    8/5/0
Total net yards    222    419
Fumbles/lost    1-0    1/0
Penalties    4/35    3/35
Punts/avg    4/21.3    3/17.0

Bomber Individual Stats
Rushing: M.Strelow 13/64; T.Vaughan 6/17; C.Towery 5/9.
Passing: M.Strelow 31/10/1– 132 yds. Receiving: T.Vaughan 6/75; J.Johnson 1/29; A.Fealy 2/19; C.Towery 1/9.
Kicking: M.Strelow 1 kickoff 13 yds; J.Johnson 4 punts 21.3 avg.
Tackle leaders: G.DeGray 15.5, B.Cuda 14, E.Vavra 12.5, T.Vaughan 8.5, D.Ramthun 8.5, M.Sward 6, A.Fealy 5.5, M.Strelow 4.
Returns: Kickoff– T.Vaughan 4/50, E.Vavra 2/39.

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