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Chris Murphy, Published October 11 2013

Moorhead falls to No. 3 Brainerd 26-23 in overtime

MOORHEAD – Brainerd running back Conor Gessell knew the game was over as soon as the ball was handed to him on his team’s first play of overtime. Gessell was right.

After Moorhead’s Jacob Wiedrich buried a 27-yard field goal in overtime to put the Spuds up three, Gessell had nothing but green in front of him on a 10-yard touchdown run to keep the No. 3-ranked Warriors undefeated and clinch the Central Lakes North Conference with a 26-23 win Friday at Jim Gotta Stadium.

“I think they were expecting us to go option, because we were killing them on the option the whole half, but we went with a counter,” Gessell said. “It was wide open. I knew I was gone right away.”

The option wasn’t the only thing killing Moorhead in the second half, as Brainerd scored 20 unanswered points to tie the game and send it to overtime. Brainerd coach Ron Stolski has “one heartbeat” written on his Brainerd Warriors hat. Needless to say at halftime that one heartbeat was pumping with his team down 20-0.

“You don’t want to hear that,” Stolski said when asked what he told his team at half. “I just said, ‘Will you or won’t you? It’s up to you.’ We made play after play in that half. This is a tough bunch. We’re not real big. We’re not a lot of things, but we’re pretty damn tough.”

Down 20-13 with 5 minutes, 18 seconds left and on its own 23-yard line, Brainerd went 67 yards to tie the game.

Seven of those yards came on a Logan McElfresh fake punt on fourth-and-3. Fifteen of those yards came on Cole Smith’s diving catch from Thomas Stoxen on third-and-10 from the Moorhead 19-yard line. The biggest yard of Gessell’s 111 rushing in the game came on the touchdown with 1:14 left to tie it. Just as Moorhead (4-3) had done on its third touchdown, Brainerd (7-0) missed the extra point, and the game went into overtime.

“There isn’t much going through your head in a moment like that,” Gessell said. “It definitely shows how resilient our team is. No matter what situation, down 20 points with a half left, we can come back against any team in a tough spot like playing at Moorhead in tough conditions.”

The Spuds had 233 net yards to Brainerd’s 30 in the first half. Brainerd had one first down and Moorhead had three touchdowns. With 4:05 left in the first, quarterback Tyler Eidsness burrowed his way into the end zone to put Moorhead up 7-0. The Spuds recovered the ensuing kickoff at the Brainerd 24-yard line and four plays later Jade Lawrence was running into the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown. With five minutes left in the half, Eidsness struck again on a 9-yard touchdown run to put Moorhead up 20-0.

“We had opportunities to put the game away earlier, but we didn’t,” Moorhead coach Kevin Feeney said. “They are the No. 1 team according to the playoff seedings that we are going to be seeing down the road. We aren’t about moral victories, but if that’s the No. 1 football team in the state, we’re headed in the right direction.”

B 0 0 7 13 6–26

M 14 6 0 0 3–23

M-Eidsness 2 run (Wiedrich kick)

M-J. Lawrence 6 run (Wiedrich kick)

M-Eidness 9 run (kick no good)

B-Gessell 3 run (McElfresh kick)

B-Davis 2 run (McElfresh kick)

B-Gessell 1 run (kick no good)

M-Wiedrich 27 kick

B-Gessell 10 run (no kick attempted)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: M, J. Lawrence 17-112, Eidseness 17-45, Gotta 3-12, Rage 14-88, Duginski 1-8. B, Gessell 16-111, Davis 11-21, Stoxen 6-41, McElfresh 2-14.

PASSING: M, Eidsness 2-3-0 42 yards. B, Stoxen 7-15-0 99 yards.

RECEIVING: M, Duginski 1-26, J. Lawrence 1-16. B, McElfresh 1-14, I. Smith 3-41, C. Smith 3-33, Davis 1-5


Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548