MINNEAPOLIS-Matthew Hayford got his revenge.
The top-ranked Pierz Pioneers did not.
Hayford, Rochester Lourdes' starting quarterback, was picked off twice during the Class 3A State semifinal Saturday, Nov. 17 at U.S. Bank Stadium. But it was his interception of Pierz's Peter Schommer on third and 11 at the Rochester 14 with 5:41 remaining and the Eagles leading 18-14 that catapulted the Eagles into next week's Prep Bowl with a 25-20 victory over Pierz.
"Especially after throwing interceptions, you have to keep your head straight," Hayford said. "That's what coaches always tell us-next play mentality. I knew it was going to come down to somebody making a plan and it just happened to be me. You have to stay together through those hard times and I just ended up making the play."
Hayford returned the pick to the Pierz 47. Eight plays and 47 yards later Andrew Peine scored from a yard out and the Lourdes held a 25-14 edge with 2:50 left on the clock.
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Rochester Lourdes 25, Pierz 20
- Key: A Matthew Hayford interception late in the 4th quarter sealed the win
- Overall: Prz 11-1, RL 13-0
- Next: Rochester Lourdes vs. Fairmont in Class 3A Championship at U.S. Bank Stadium 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24
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The Pioneers answered thanks to an 11-play, 55-yard drive. Schommer was 5-of-10 passing for 51 yards on the drive, including a 13-yard TD pass to Alex Poster with 1:09 left to make it 25-20.
Pierz attempted the onside kick, but Rochester recovered and ran the clock out to snap the Pioneers 24-game winning streak and prevent Pierz from repeating as the 3A state champions.
"It was a great game against two very good teams," Pierz head coach Leo Pohlkamp said. "We had a lot of respect for Lourdes and we still have that great respect for them. I think we earned their respect.
"Both teams played their hearts out. This game could have gone either way and we left a few out there. We started the game with a touchdown and we lost that. You have to make plays throughout the whole game. We battled. The kids battled and I'm proud of their effort."
Entering the second half with a 15-14 edge, Rochester took the opening drive 62 yards on 11 plays to set up a 40-yard Ben Limburg field goal for the 18-14 edge.
Pierz's offense couldn't find the end zone, but it's defense collected two interceptions on the Eagles next two drives. Alex Gross secured Pierz's second pick and his third in the last two weeks.
"We were more concerned about their run," Gross said. "We weren't really focused on their passing game because they run the ball so well, especially their option.
"We had opportunities to make plays and we just didn't make them happen. We had the plays we just didn't follow through."
Matthias Algarin grabbed the third pick, which helped set up what might have been Pierz's game-winning drive at their own 31. The drive included a fourth down and 1 conversion on their own 40-yard line with 10:22 remaining. Nine plays later it was third and 11 and Hayford's pick dashed Pierz's hopes.
"He snapped the ball and I kind of saw that it was going to be one of those throwbacks that I saw earlier in the game," Hayford said. "I kind of just waited for him to throw it, hoping he would throw it, and he ended up doing it."
The Eagles opened the scoring with a 7-play, 63-yard drive to start the second quarter. Zach Jungles capped it with a 2-yard run and a 7-0 Lourdes lead.
A Carson Huls 1-yard TD run was the answer as it capped off a five-play, 59-yard scoring drive for Pierz. Reese Kapsner tacked on the two-point conversion for an 8-7 Pierz lead.
The lead didn't last as Lourdes answered with a six-play, 65-yard drive. Hayford was 2-for-2 passing for 37 yards and Jake Groteboer scored on a 3-yard run.
The Pioneers answered again. This time with Kapsner scoring from a yard out. The senior's TD finished off a 10-play drive that covered 78 yards in 3:21. It was a Kapsner 48-yard rumble that set up the TD and a 15-14 halftime score in favor of Rochester.
"Being down at halftime was something new," Pohlkamp said. "I'm sure it was the same for Rochester. I don't think the kids panicked at all. We just went into halftime saying there was a whole half left to play. We threw more than we wanted to in that second half, but sometimes you have to give the other team credit. Their linebackers were really flowing to fill the hole. When you get a one-score game like that, it's a credit to both teams."
Kapsner finished the first half with 121 yards on 15 carries and the score. He finished the game with 156 yards on 21 carries. Pierz rushed for 257 yards in the first half, but also got 94-yards passing from Schommer, who went 3-for-3 in the opening frame. Preston Veith caught a 43-yard pass to push Pierz down to the Rochester 30. Four plays later on first and 10 from the 15, Pierz fumbled the ball away.
It was the passes to Algarin for 34 yards and Brandon Tomala for 17 yards that set up Huls' TD run.
Pierz gained just 147 yards in the second half.
"They were just slanting here and there," Kapsner said of Lourdes' defense. "That mixed things up for our offensive line. It was just a battle. Both sides were battling in there."
Big plays were plentiful in the opening quarter, but nothing materialized into points. On the opening kickoff, after some sneaky handoffs, Algarin returned it 80 yards for a score, but an illegal block in the back nullified the play.
A Luke Girtz sack for negative 11 yards stopped the Lourdes opening drive. Pierz's defense held Rochester to 112 yards rushing and just 170 yards total in the first half, but Jungels rushed for 79 yards and a score and Hayford finished 3-6 for 58 yards. He did throw an interception to Michael Leidenfrost to end the first half.
"Just the way (Pierz) goes about things," Rochester head coach Mike Kesler said. "The way they do things. They do things right. They play tough, hard-nosed football. They are fundamentally sound. Things that we believe in and talk about all the time. They're kind of a mirror image. We just have a ton of respect for their program.
"One of us had to win and we just happened to be the team that made more plays today."
Pierz 0 14 0 6-20
Rochester Lourdes 0 15 3 7-25
RL-Zach Jungels 2 run (Ben Limburg kick) 9:58
Prz-Carson Huls 1 run (Kapsner run) 5:51
RL-Jake Groteboer 3 run (Matthew Hayford run) 3:47
Prz-Reese Kapsner 1 run (pass failed) :18
RL-Limburg 40 field goal 6:30
RL-Andrew Peine 1 run (Limburg kick) 2:50
Prz-Alex Poster 13 pass from Peter Schommer (pass failed) 1:39
Rushes-yards: Prz 49-237, RL 42-227
Pass comp-att-int-yds: Prz 10-21-1-167, RL 3-9-3-58
Total offense: Prz 70-404, RL 52-285
Rushing: Prz-Reese Kapsner 21-156, Carson Huls 11-41, Matthew Algarin 9-27, Alex Gross 3-10, Blake Kowalczyk 1-3, Maverick Kowalczyk 1-3, Peter Schommer 3-(-3); RL-Zach Jungels 14-109, Pat Leary 3-26, Jake Groteboer 11-62, Andrew Peine 4-9, Matthew Hayford5-11, Noah Wieneke 2-1
Passing: Prz-Peter Schommer 10-18-167, Derek Schommer 0-2-0, Kasner 0-1-0; RL-Hayford 3-8-2-58, Pat Leary 0-1-0
Receiving: Prz-Preston Veith 2-53, Algarin 2-37, Brandon Tomala 1-17, Kapsner 3-39, Alex Poster 1-13, Luke Girtz 1-8; RL-Leary 2-47, Julian Bretton 1-11