Area Football: Pierz passes up Royalton 20-8

Pierz only gained 180 yards, but held Royalton to 173. After the Jones TD catch, Royalton’s drives ended on a 3-and-out, a loss on downs, a fumble recovery by Trevor Radunz and another loss on downs.

Pierz Pioneer Logo.jpg

PIERZ — It started out like Pierz of old, but it took a touchdown pass to seal the deal for the Pioneers Friday, Oct. 9.

Pierz opened the game with a 12-play, 64-yard drive to take a 6-0 lead over the Royalton Royals. But the outcome was anyone’s guess until junior Zach Jones hauled in a 20-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Noah Cekalla to make it 20-8 Pierz and that’s how it ended.

“It felt pretty good,” Jones said of the TD catch. “We’re usually a run team, yes, but we throw it here and there. It was pretty nice to get a touchdown in the opener.

“We were just running a flag (route) and Noah saw that no one was on me. We had blockers downfield and we just scored.”

The Cekalla to Jones connection played a key part in Pierz’s opening drive. On second and 21 from the Royalton 40, Jones and Cekalla connected for a 39-yard reception to put Pierz on the 1-yard line. Ross Boser then did the rest with a 1-yard TD score with 5:40 remaining in the first quarter.


In the second quarter, after an unsuccessful punt attempt by Royalton gave Pierz the ball at the Royalton 28, Michael Leidenfrost capped off a 10-play drive with a 5-yard TD run to make it 14-0 Pierz.


Pierz 20, Royalton 8

Key: Pierz defense held Royalton scoreless in second half.

Overall: Prz 1-0; Roy 0-1.

Next: Pierz hosts Melrose 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16; Royalton at Osakis 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15.


But the Pioneers left too much time on the halftime clock as Royalton matched 66 yards in eight plays. With 30 seconds remaining on the first-half clock, Tyler Swenson found Zach Ellerbusch for a 30-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion made the halftime score 14-8.

Royalton started the second half with the ball, but Pierz defense forced a punt. Junior Hunter Hoheisel blocked it and gave Pierz the ball on the Royals’ 34. Five plays later, Cekalla hit Jones for the final score.


“If you’re in a one-score game it just feels like there is always pressure,” Pierz head coach Danny Saehr said. “You make a mistake or do something wrong, then you’re in a tie game, or you’re down for that matter because we were only up six.

“Noah made some really nice throws and Zach Jones made some phenomenal catches. He’s an athlete. We’re going to have to do that more this year. I know it’s part of the game, but it hasn’t been part of our game plan for a long time, but the reality is we have a lot of confidence in our receivers and our senior quarterback.”

Cekalla finished 5-of-6 passing for 68 yards. Jones caught four of those passes for 69 yards.

Leidenfrost led the Pioneers’ rushing attack with 58 yards on 18 carries.

“We graduated a tremendous group of kids and football players,” Saehr said. “They were a special team and that’s why they won a state title. In the same sense, it’s this team’s turn. I think the biggest obstacle for these kids is confidence. We asked the kids to raise their hands if they started in last year’s Prep Bowl and one kid raised their hand.

“So now it’s their turn and we’re excited because we’ve improved a lot from our first week of practice and hopefully we can improve next week as well.”

Pierz only gained 180 yards, but held Royalton to 173. After the Jones TD catch, Royalton’s drives ended on a 3-and-out, a loss on downs, a fumble recovery by Trevor Radunz and another loss on downs.

“We were slanting around to try and get them off their game,” Jones said. “We were trying to catch them off by lining up in different areas.”


Saehr said the difference was physicality.

“I was very proud of the kids in the second half,” Saehr said. “We made a few adjustments and early in the season, it can be up and down. I’ll take the blame as the coach for maybe not adjusting earlier. They found a couple of weaknesses. We moved our defensive linemen and backers around a little bit. I think the biggest thing, and give credit to the kids, but we were really, really physical in the second half.

“We knew it was going to be a feeling-out period because basically we have 20 new starters and it’s their first career start. Nobody is going to feel bad for us. We just need to continue to improve.”

Royalton 0 8 0 0 -- 8
Pierz 6 8 6 0 -- 20

First quarter
Prz-Ross Boser 1 run (kick blocked) 5:40


Second quarter
Prz-Michael Leidenfrost 5 run (Zach Jones pass from Noah Cekalla) 2:56
R-Zach Ellerbusch 30 pass from Tyler Swenson (Swenson run) :30
Third quarter
Prz-Jones 20 pass from Cekalla (pass failed) 4:24

Team statistics
Rushes-yards: Prz 38-112, R 42-143
Pass comp-att-int-yds: Prz 5-6-0-68, R 1-3-0-30
Total offense: Prz 44-180, R 45-173

Individual leaders
Rushing: Prz-Michael Leidenfrost 18-58, Ben Virnig 11-39, Ross Boser 7-14, Noah Cekalla 2-1; R-Connor Carlson 19-82, Drew Yourczek 9-26, Tyler Swenson 7-40, Will Gorecki 3-(-2), Jackson Psyck 1-0, Zach Ellerbusch 3-(-3)
Passing: Prz-Cekalla 5-6-68 ; R-Swenson 1-3-30
Receiving: Prz-Zach Jones 4-69, Hunter Hoheisel 1-(-1) ; R-Ellerbusch 1-30

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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