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Area Football: The dynasty continues: Pierz wins 7th straight section title

The top-seeded and top-ranked Pioneers won the Section 6-3A final Friday, Nov. 2, at St. Cloud State University, knocking out the No. 2 seeded and seventh-ranked Wildcats 44-6. Jeremy Millsop / Brainerd Dispatch

ST. CLOUD—New London-Spicer had the size, but Pierz had everything else.

The top-seeded and top-ranked Pioneers withstood a flurry of body blows to start the Section 6-3A final Friday, Nov. 2, at St. Cloud State University to eventually knock out the No. 2 seeded and seventh-ranked Wildcats 44-6.

It will be the 15th state tournament appearance for Pierz, which is now on a 22-game winning streak, a 13-game winning streak in section games and a seven-game winning streak in section final games.

"We knew they were bigger than us and maybe just as athletic, but we've taught these guys technique and it's about who is going to stay with their block the longest," Pierz head coach Leo Pohlkamp said. "Most players will block for a count. Our guys will block for three or four seconds. That offensive line played great. We only had one kid come back from last year, but they've gotten to the point where they're starting to roll."

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Pierz 44, New London-Spicer 6

  • Key: Pierz averaged 11.7 yards per play
  • Overall: Prz 10-0, NL-S 9-2
  • Next: Pierz vs. Section 5-3A winner (Mora vs. Annandale) in Class 3A State Quarterfinals at St. Cloud State University 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10

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The Pioneers employed a bend-but-don't-break defense that saw NL-S rattle off 59 plays, but for just 269 yards. Meanwhile, Pierz needed just 36 plays to post 420 yards of offense. Senior halfback Reese Kapsner rushed for 183 yards on 16 carries. He had four carries of more than 15 yards helping Pierz average 11.7 yards per play. This despite NL-S having a noticeable size advantage throughout the offensive and defensive lines.

"We practiced hard," Pierz tight end and defensive lineman Preston Veith said. "They outweighed us, but we just played with everything we have in our heart. We gave it our all. We just tried to be more physical and smarter than them. We really focused on our technique."

Two Pierz fumbles and the clock running out were the only times the Pioneers didn't score. Pierz answered NL-S's only touchdown of the game when Kapsner capped off a three-play, 75-yard drive with a 49-yard score.

After a Wildcat punt on the next possession, Blake Kowalczyk scored on a 1-yard plunge with 1:54 left in the third quarter for the final score.

"This win is great," Veith said. "It's a great feeling. It's one of the best feelings I've ever had. Hopefully, we keep it going."

Kowalczyk's score induced running time for the fourth quarter, which saw Pierz driving again before NL-S's Payton Madison ripped the ball out of a Pierz runner's hands and returned it to the Pierz 48. Ten plays later the Wildcats still couldn't get in the end zone.

NL-S was just 1-4 in the red zone.

After NL-S's opening drive of the game stalled at the Pierz 13, the Pioneers drove it 87 yards thanks to a Matthias Algarin 67-yard touchdown reception from Derek Schommer for the game's opening score.

Algarin was wide open thanks to the play-action fake by Schommer.

"I've never been that wide open," Algarin said. "That was great. It was great play calling by coach Dave Rocheleau. He had me in there at tight end kind of tricking them up a little bit, but I got my four blocks in there and then it was great timing on that call.

"There was nobody over there and I was just hoping I wouldn't drop it. Then I just sprinted for my life."

Pierz ended the Wildcats' next drive as Kapsner collected his sixth interception of the season and turned it into his second pick-six of the year by returning it 30 yards to make it 14-0 Pierz.

For the second time of the first half, NL-S drove into the red zone only to stall again at the Pierz 11. Six plays later, Algarin scored from 27-yards out to hand Pierz a 20-0 edge.

Pierz capped off the scoring when Carson Huls dove into the end zone for a 5-yard TD run and a 28-0 halftime lead.

Despite the score the Wildcats controlled the ball most of the first half. NL-S gained 181 yards on 34 carries. Senior fullback, Madison, who stands at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, gained 110 of those yards on 13 carries. He only gained 18 yards in the second half to finish with 128 on 20 carries.

"He's a horse," Pohlkamp said. "We adjusted slowly, but he's a back that colleges are looking at and that is so hard to simulate in practice. We tackled him and I thought we had him, but he would bust out and gain more yards.

"We started adjusting though. At first, we were just letting them run through us and we were wondering if we were going to stop this guy all night. Eventually, we just started getting better and better."

Said Veith: "He was really good and it was hard bringing him down. He's a big kid and he's strong, but we got him and that's all that matters."

Pierz ran just 23 plays, but rumbled for 262 yards. Kapsner rushed for 89 yards on 10 carries and Huls added 53 yards on eight carries. The big difference was Schommer hitting on 2-of-3 passes for 90 yards.

"That happens because we don't show a lot on film," Pohlkamp said. "The other day, Dave (Rocheleau) said 'look at this playbook. I never get to run any of these plays. We just keep running.'"

Since 2003, Pierz has won section titles in five different sections and owns a 12-2 section finals record. Pierz did not make the section final in just the 2012 and 2010 seasons. Pierz has beaten 10 different opponents for section titles. St. Cloud Cathedral and now New London-Spicer are the only repeats.

NL-S 0 0 6 0— 6

Pierz 14 14 16 0—44

First quarter

Prz-Matthias Algarin 67 pass from Derek Schommer (Reese Kapsner run) 5:05

Prz-Kapsner 30 interception return (run failed) 3:22

Second quarter

Prz-Algarin 27 run (run failed) 9:38

Prz-Carson Huls 5 run (Luke Girtz pass from Schommer) 1:20

Third quarter

NLS-Jake Schmidt 13 pass from Brandon Adelman (pass failed) 8:14

Prz-Reese Kapsner 49 run (Preston Veith pass from Schommer) 7:21

Prz-Blake Kowalczyk 1 run (Kowalczyk run) 1:54

Team statistics

Rushes-yards: P 33-330, NLS 40-212

Pass comp-att-int-yds: P 2-3-0-90, NLS 5-19-1-269

Total offense: P 36-420, NLS 57-269

Individual leaders

Rushing: P-Carson Huls 7-69, Reese Kapsner 16-183, Matthias Algarin 2-57, Alex Gross 3-10m Blake Kowalczyk 3-9, Adam Funk 1-2, Alex Poster 1-0; NLS-Payton Madison 20-128, Gideon Mische 7-24, Kelly Bennetts 2-16, Brandon Adelman 4-(-21), Sam Stageberg 7-23

Passing: P-Derek Schommer 2-3-90; NLS-Adelman 4-18-57, Stageberg 0-1-0

Receiving: P-Algarin 1-67, Kapsner 1-23; NLS-Bennetts 2-18, Evan Dietz 1-13, Jake Schmidt 2-26

Jeremy Millsop
My career at the Brainerd Dispatch began May 11, 1999 after graduating from North Dakota State University. My areas of emphasis includes local high school sports, Central Lakes College, the lakes area golf mecca and once a year I dabble in the NHRA when the Lucas Oil Nationals come to Brainerd International Raceway.
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