Moorhead Spuds bested by Brainerd in football home opener
Three late game touchdowns earns Warriors first win off the season as Moorhead takes first loss.
MOORHEAD — Three touchdowns in the final quarter propelled the Brainerd Warriors past the Moorhead Spuds 27-10 Friday night as the Warriors handed the Spuds their first loss of the season.
Moorhead entered the fourth quarter holding a three-point edge, 10-7, thanks to a Gavin Quade lunge to get the ball into the end zone with 1 minute, 28 seconds left in the third quarter.
The teams would each take a turn on offense, but were both forced to punt after four plays apiece.
On the fifth play of Brainerd’s second possession of the quarter, quarterback Getty Marcello found room to run to his right and put the boosters on to take the ball in from 26-yards for the go-ahead score.
The Warriors followed it up with two more touchdowns — runs from Landon Severson and Damen Bentho — before the game was over.
Moorhead coach Kevin Feeney looked to missed opportunities in the first half — three red zone appearances with only three points from a Revar Qaqos field goal to show for, in particular — as a major component in the loss.
“I really felt that in the first half, we didn’t finish drives,” Feeney said. “We had three times (in the red zone) and we only came away with one field goal. ‘Finish,’ was the slogan of the day. So, that was disappointing.”
With Brainerd controlling much of the game on offense in the opening half, the Spuds' defense found little opportunity to rest, Feeney said.
“I thought our defense got worn down in the first half. We were on the field too much,” he said. “We got beat, really, in all three phases, though. Offense, defense, special teams, we’ve got to do a lot of things better. We’ve got to be better in every phase of the game.
“We just kind of started to panic. I thought we kind of just got away from what we know we can do.”
Spuds’ quarterback Quade — in addition to scoring the sole Spuds touchdown of the night — ended his first home game of the season with 332 yards passing, completing 25 of 49 passes with two interceptions.
Owen Thielges led the Spuds in receiving yards with 143 on 12 receptions. DJ Smith had 73 on four catches and Michael Haugo 60 on eight receptions.
While Feeney isn’t sounding any alarms yet, he hopes the loss can help motivate the team before it’s too late.
“It’s early in the season, but we’ve got to find some answers,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s a good wake-up call (to take the first loss). But, it comes with preparation. Our preparation on the practice field and in the weight room has got to be great for us to be good moving forward.”
The Spuds also paid tribute to longtime Moorhead sports figure Al “Pebbles” Gravalin, who passed away in late August, with decals on their helmets.
While the game brought Moorhead its first loss of the year, Brainerd celebrated its first win after two rough weeks to open their season.
However, those two losses taught the Warriors what they needed to know to win this game, said head coach Jason Freed.
“To be brutally honest, (the key was) learning from our failures the first two weeks,” Freed said. “Week 1, we blew a 20-point lead and lost in the fourth quarter. Last week, we ran into a buzzsaw with Andover, but we came out in the second half and played really hard. I told our kids after we lost to Andover, sometimes you have to fail in order to learn and I think we learned a lot.”
The first win of 2022 coming after four quarters of effort against Moorhead, Freed added, makes the taste of victory that much sweeter.
“(It’s) huge. Huge,” he said .”We came here two years ago and got swept off the field. Moorhead is the standard when it comes to Section 8. Coach Feeney, I have all the respect for him in the world. His program is top-notch. For us to come here tonight and put together a four-quarter game against a great opponent — they’re going to be a great football team — that’s a huge win for us. It’s a confidence builder and now we just have to focus on next week and take it one at a time.”
The Spuds moved to 1-1, while the Warriors improved to 1-2.
Moorhead hits the road again next week as they take on Bemidji at 7 p.m. Friday.
Brainerd heads back home to host Sartell-St. Stephen. That game is also set for a 7 p.m. Friday kickoff.