Blake Kowalczyk lets his playing do the talking.
Against Albany in the Section 6-3A Finals, the senior fullback made a statement by rushing for 120 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries in Pierz’s 42-22 win over the Huskies to clinch its seventh straight state appearance.
“I’ve really never helped a team get to state,” Kowalczyk said. “I just felt I was doing my job.”
Kowalczyk was the first person after the win to credit the offensive line for allowing him to have a big game.
“Our line in front of him did an excellent job of opening up holes,” Pierz head coach Dan Saehr said. “But Blake runs really, really hard and he is not a super big kid, but he is physical and explosive for a kid his size. He pushed the pile down field many times (against Albany) and I thought had one of his best games of the year.”
Kowalczyk now has 676 yards on the ground, which is second on team behind Matthias Algarin, who has 949 yards rushing.
“Our offense coordinator Dave Rocheleau is very good about taking what other teams give us,” Saehr said. “We feel if we can get one going it’s going to help the other and when you start running wide and up the middle it keeps linebackers on their heels. They have to watch for everything. Blake is very explosive from the fullback position and if the backers don’t get to him right away he is in the second level before you know it.”
Last year as a junior, Kowalczyk racked up 292 yards and five touchdowns on 45 carries.
This season Saehr and his staff have seen Kowalczyk grow in all phases of the game.
“He played some fullback for us last year, but this year he has turned into a two-way starter for us,” Saehr said. “He’s really grasping the game of football not only physically, but also the mental part of it. He watches a ton of film and really prepares himself. He’s turned into a very good all-around football player and I’m really proud of where he is at right now.”
As a leader, Kowalczyk is the first to point out how well his teammates played and gives praise to his teammates. His humility is something Saehr sees as one of the reasons why he has enjoyed success.
“I always tell kids if you are successful the first thing you should do is give thanks to your teammates because it all goes hand in hand,” Saehr said.
With Kowalczyk there is a relentless quality to his running that gives Saehr and his staff confidence handing him the ball.
“Not too often does he come down on first contact,” Saehr said. “He keeps his legs moving and he drives piles three, four, sometimes five yards down field. Our running backs coach, Rick Sczublewski, does a really good job of emphasizing that and Blake does a great job of doing that.”
Kowalczyk thinks it’s his explosiveness off the ball that separates him from the competition. He mentioned how hard he worked in the offseason lifting weights to hone this skill set.
“I did a lot of power cleans and dumbbell stuff with some agility and pushing sleds,” Kowalczyk said.
In the game against Albany, the Pioneers gave four different running backs carries, but Kowalczyk got the bulk with his 20 carries. He also is a threat in the red zone as his ability to push the pile comes in handy near the goaline.
He also is a good lead blocker for teammates.
“We have had a number of big runs off tackle or out wide and its because of his blocking,” Saehr said. “We ask a lot out of our backs to block and they take pride in it.”
But again, Kowalczyk credited the coaching staff.
“I just do the technique my coaches give me,” Kowalczyk said. “They just tell me what’s best to do and I go and do my best with what they tell me.”
Highlights: 120 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries