In Dusty Cassens’ mind, three simple words summed up Friday evening’s damp festivities for the St. Cloud Apollo Eagles.
“Too many mistakes,” the Apollo senior lineman and captain said.
Kyle Rosenthal, another Eagles captain, added one more word.
“Way too many mistakes,” Rosenthal said. “And it happened at the worst possible situations, too.”
That about summed up Apollo’s 42-14 loss to Brainerd.
“It’s a tough loss, obviously,” Eagles head coach Justin Skaalerud said. “It’s a story of mistakes.
“We made quite a few mistakes in the first quarter offensively and defensively. But no excuses, Brainerd is a very good football team, deserving of the recognition they are receiving in the state polls and I expect them to go very far in the playoffs once that time comes.”
Apollo and Brainerd both came in 3-0. The Eagles believed they had a chance to win at a place an Apollo team hadn’t won at since at least the mid 1980s. Apollo has only beaten Brainerd twice in the past 26 years, in 2003 and 1995, and both those wins were at Michie Field.
But any hopes of a win in a tough place to play were quickly dashed. Brainerd piled up 398 yards, including 387 on the ground.
The Warriors controlled the line of scrimmage and got outstanding performances from hard-running backs Conor Gessell and Logan Davis.
“The backs really ran hard,” said Brainerd’s Ron Stolski, the state’s all-time winningest head coach. “That’s kind of been a trait of ours, I think …
“There’s some credit to the offensive line. There were some holes that were pretty big.”
Brainerd led 14-7 after the first half and 35-7 at halftime. On the way to the intermission, the Warriors out-gained Apollo 292-88.
“We couldn’t stop their run on defense at all,” Rosenthal said.
Gessell ran for 187 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries. Davis had 136 yards and two touchdowns on 22 attempts. Quarterback Thomas Stoxen ran eight times for 43 yards and a TD.
It was a collective effort from an offensive line that returned two starters from last season, Alex DeRosier (6-3, 270, Sr.) and Alex Evanson (6-2, 220, Sr.).
“We knew they were a good team,” Cassens said.
Meanwhile, the Warriors’ Cole Smith intercepted three passes. Smith, a senior safety, is the son of former St. Cloud State star defensive back Tommy Smith.
“Those were the first three interceptions we’ve had all season,” Rosenthal said.
When things went well for the Eagles, it was because junior quarterback Ben Alvord was finding his second and third choices for targets.
Alvord and Rosenthal, the senior running back, hooked up for two TDs, one an 18-yarder with 2:54 to play in the first quarter that tied it up at 7-7 after Connor Waldron’s PAT.
The other came in the fourth quarter. Alvord hit Rosenthal for a 7-yard TD that cut the deficit to 42-14.
Brainerd (4-0 in the CLC North) is ranked third in the state Class 5A poll.
The Warriors play St. Cloud Tech at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Clemens Stadium in Collegeville.
Apollo (3-1 in the CLC South) plays Fergus Falls at 7 p.m. Friday at Michie Field. It’s the Eagles’ homecoming.
Like the Brainerd game, it’s a win they’d desperately like to get. They haven’t won a homecoming game since 2003 either.
“We’re planning on having another good season like that,” Rosenthal said, knowing Friday’s wasn’t a good game.
“This was a nonconference (actually non-division) and a non-section game,” Cassens said. “But it still means a lot.”
It means the Eagles have work to do if they hope to achieve their goals.
B — Conor Gessell 11 run (Logan McElfresh kick)
A — Kyle Rosenthal 18 pass from Ben Alvord (Connor Waldron kick)
B — Logan Davis 7 run (McElfresh kick)
B — Davis 9 run (McElfresh kick)
B — Gessell 22 run (McElfresh kick)
B — Thomas Stoxen 3 run (McElfresh kick)
B — Gessell 5 run (McElfresh kick)
A — Rosenthal 7 pass from Alvord (Waldron kick)
Rushing: A — Alvord 14-44, Rosenthal 3-13, Michael Ashwill 2-4, Antongy Vega 2-3, Noel Teigen 3-(-3). Total: 24-65. B — Gessell 24-187, Davis 22-136, Stoxen 8-43, Evan Brecht 3-16, McElfresh 2-7, Matt Ramerth 4-4, Paul Augustinack 1-(-1), Matt Sucik 5-(-5). Total: 69-387.
Passing: A — Alvord 12-20-3 132, Justin Barg 0-1-0 0. B — Stoxen 1-3-1 11.
Receiving: A — Jeremy Koffi 6-27, Rosenthal 4-83, Cooper Lynch 2-16. B — Isaiah Smith 1-11.