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Area Football: Run game key for both Pierz, DGF

Pierz vs. DGF What: Class 3A state quarterfinal Who: Pierz (10-0) vs. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (8-2) When: 6 p.m. Saturday Where: Adamson Field, Brainerd High School Good things happened the last time the Pierz Pioneers played the Dilworth-Glyndon...

Bill Johnson Photo / Pierz's Michael Meyer (40) intercepts a pass in front of St. Cloud Cathedral's Isaac Heying (12) as teammate Robbie Skiba follows the play.
Bill Johnson Photo / Pierz's Michael Meyer (40) intercepts a pass in front of St. Cloud Cathedral's Isaac Heying (12) as teammate Robbie Skiba follows the play.

Pierz vs. DGF

What: Class 3A state quarterfinal

Who: Pierz (10-0) vs. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (8-2)

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Adamson Field, Brainerd High School

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Good things happened the last time the Pierz Pioneers played the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Rebels.

The last matchup happened in 2004 in the Section 8-2A final at Fargodome. Pierz topped the Rebels 20-10 and went on to win the 2004 Class 2A state title.

The same teams meet again, this time in the Class 3A state quarterfinal 6 p.m. Saturday at Adamson Field at Brainerd High School.

The Rebels are ranked eighth in the Quality Results Formula (QRF). They've held opponents to 11.3 points per game, which is fifth best in Class 3A. Pierz is the owner of the best points-against-average at 7.4 points per game.

The seventh-ranked (QRF) Pioneers have posted three straight shutouts. Since Week Three, Pierz has allowed one touchdown or fewer in all but one game. Pierz has four shutouts this season, including last week's 48-0 Section 5-3A title victory over St. Cloud Cathedral.

"We just have to go and execute plays and not shoot ourselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers," said DGF head coach Anthony Soderberg. "We'll just do what we do. We'll find out where we stack up line against line. If we're even, we should be able to move the ball. "Looking at them on the film that we have we just don't know where they're at from a physical and toughness standpoint. We'll find out soon enough.

"If we run one of our two main plays and we're getting four or five yards a pop that's going to be an indication where we are. If it's third and 12, it's going to be a long day."

DGF has three shutouts, two coming against Pequot Lakes, including last week's 6-0 Section 8-3A victory. Since a 26-21 win over Perham Sept. 26, DGF has given up 15 points. Teams are averaging 219 yards of offense against the Rebels.

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"The unknown is always the hard part," said Pierz head coach Leo Pohlkamp. "When we played Cathedral we saw a lot of different fronts from their defense. We know (DGF) is pretty true to a 4-4 defense. That's what we saw them do against Detroit Lakes and Pequot Lakes. They're going to stay in that and so what we'll do this week is really focus on the 4-4 defense. Their two linebackers (Brandon Wayne and Joe Flatt) are very good football players and we need to make sure we get bodies on them. But we'll go at them like we always do.

"We do have a week to prepare for a team that is true to their defensive front."

This is the second straight and third overall state tournament appearance for the Rebels, while Pierz is making the state football tournament an annual tradition. This is the Pioneers' second straight and 10th state appearance. Pierz has been to eight state tournaments since 2002, winning the 2A title in 2004.

The Rebels' offense runs through the legs of Wayne and Flatt. Wayne has rushed for 856 yards and eight touchdowns, while Flatt has 810 yards and 12 scores. Alex Matthews has 591 yards on five scores.

DGF quarterback Blake Kragnes has thrown for 947 yards and eight touchdowns. He's been picked off five times and has completed 52-of-103 attempts. His main target is Matthews, who has 14 receptions for 215 yards and three scores.

"I absolutely have a lot of faith in our passing game," said Soderberg. "We did some things wrong against Pequot Lakes in the last game, but our quarterback has done a good job and hopefully we've corrected the little mistakes we made. It will depend on what kind of game we run into, whether we pass or not. If we get the kind of game like we had with Pequot where it's 0-0 for most of it, then there is no urgency to start passing the ball. If we need to go throw the ball, we can throw the ball."

When the Rebels score, it's usually in the first half. DGF has 174 first-half points compared to just 86 in the second half.

"They like to run the ball and pound the ball," Pohlkamp said. "They have a nice fullback (Flatt). He's a load and he's also a good blocker for their tailback off tackle. They run the power game and they have a good counter, which every good team usually has. When they played Pequot, it was a low scoring game. They wanted to slow the game down, but it was funny because they used a pass to set up the only score of the game."

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Pierz will run. Then it will run again. And again and again. Then it will run some more. While Robbie Skiba will get most of the attention, Noah Boser and Jonathan Kasper give Pierz multiple threats.

Boser has rushed for 669 yards and nine scores and Kasper, who was injured earlier in the season, has rushed for 334 yards and four TDs.

But Skiba will be DGF's key. The senior back has 1,901 yards and 21 touchdowns, including a school-record 316 yards against Cathedral.

"They have a couple of pretty fast running backs and a well-trained offensive line," said Soderberg. "They run the football and do a good job of it.

"Defensively, our success is just getting aligned correctly and have all 11 guys trusting each other and act as one unit. We like to play physical football. We're a pretty senior-led defense."

Pierz's Ethan Lochner has thrown for 390 yards and six TDs. Nick Herold has eight receptions for 92 yards and Kolton Eischens has six catches for 121 yards and two scores.

"This team has great chemistry and that's what you need," said Pohlkamp. "Our linemen want to see Robbie Skiba break records. We don't have a lot of seniors, maybe six that actually play. But everyone just seems to get along. Part of that is accepting their roles.

"At the beginning of the season you kind of find out what kind of team you are going to be. We have great receivers in Michael Meyer, Nick Herold and Kolton Eischens. Those guys can really catch the ball, but we are a running team."

• Braham and Upsala/Swanville will battle in the Class 2A state quarterfinal at noon Saturday at BHS followed by Moose Lake-Willow River and Holdingford in the Class 2A quarterfinal at 3 p.m.

• The winner of the Pierz/DGF game will face the winner of St. Croix Lutheran/Rochester Lourdes at 8 p.m. Nov. 15 at St. Cloud State University.

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop .

Related Topics: PIERZ PIONEERS
Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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