ALEXANDRIA -- Maverick Kowalczyk was forced to punt Saturday, Nov. 9.
Pierz’s special teams specialist only did it once, however, as the top-ranked Pioneers controlled the line of scrimmage to run over and past the Perham Yellowjackets 58-16 in the Class 3A State Quarterfinal.
The 12-0 Pioneers, winners of six straight state quarterfinal games, racked up 367 yards of total offense, with 326 of those coming from a rushing attack that saw three players surpass 90 rushing yards.
“The offensive line did a heck of a job today,” Leidenfrost said. “Some of the holes that we had were just huge. They’ve been coming out the last few games and they’ve just been amazing. They’ve been opening up huge holes for us.
“When ever we did our job, it felt like we could run any play in the playbook. When everybody did their job we had big openings and anything was basically working day.”
Leidenfrost led the way with 132 yards on just 11 carries. His day was capped off with a 60-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that answered a late Perham touchdown.
Matthias Algarn tallied 111 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. The senior back, who committed to the University of Nebraska for both football and track and field last week, scored from 15 yards and 9 yards. His first TD gave the Pioneers a 14-0 first quarter lead. His second touchdown as part of a 29-point fourth quarter for Pierz.
“There was a little feeling out period,” Pierz head coach Danny Saehr said. “Obviously they’re going to come out and take away what we do best. So we had to make adjustments from there. Our guys up in the booth did a great job of telling us how they were lining up. They were doubling a few guys or slanting one way. We told the kids, that we have confidence in our passing game or our running game and we’re just going to take what they give us. I think you have to do that. Sometimes you just need to stay patient.”
Fullback Blake Kowalczyk rumbled for the game’s first touchdown from 4-yards. He finished off the first-half scoring with a 1-yard plunge as Pierz to a 29-8 lead into the half. Kowalczyk rushed 18 times for 93 yards. Of those 18 attempts, 12 went for first downs. Pierz rattled off 28 plays for 211 yards in the first half alone and held Perham to 23 plays for 121 yards.
“We knew they were going to come out with some trick plays probably,” Leidenfrost said. “We had seen it on all of their film. We manned up on our guys and I would say we did a pretty good job of them all game. We covered them up.”
Perham’s only scoring drive in the first half came after the Pioneers forced the Yellowjackets to punt. Sophomore quarterback Colton Hackel, who also punts for Perham, had his punt attempted block, but he recovered the ball and connected with Noah Rooney on a 26-yard desperation shuffle pass to pick up a first down. Three plays later Hacke reversed fields and scored from 44 yards.
Hackel rushed for 115 yards on 14 carries and was 7-of-15 passing for 86 yards.
“Going into this week, my biggest concern was getting lined up right,” Saehr said. “They run so many sets. They do four wide, five wide, run option, run throwing so it’s really really hard getting matched up. They have athletes all over the field and we wanted to get our athletes matched up with certain guys. They ran two double passes. Their quarterback made a heck of a play on a blocked punt. That’s very athletic team.
“They are a little unorthodox with what they do. It catches you off guard. We’re so proud of our kids. They executed our game plan and most importantly the kids made plays when they were given the opportunity.”
While Pierz’s running game dominated time of possession, the Pioneers’ passing game was on point. Peter Schommer was an efficient 3-4 passing for 41 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown pass to Preston Veith.
Neither team turned the ball over despite constant sleet pelting the Alexandria High School field.
“Ball security with the weather was the biggest thing we told the kids coming out of the half,” Saehr said. “We felt like we were winning the line of scrimmage and we were getting the ball to start the second half. Unfortunately we had to punt and they moved the ball on us. But we didn’t want to give them any momentum. We told the kids we might take some time off the play clock, but ball security and not giving up any big play son defense were our keys to the second half.”
After a scoreless third quarter, Carter Moulzolf busted off a 20-yard touchdown run followed by Algarin’s second TD.
Ben Virnig’s only carry Saturday resulted in a 56-yard touchdown to end the scoring and send Pierz back to U.S. Bank Stadium where it will face Jackson County Central -- a rematch of the 2015 Class 3A state title game played at the University of Minnesota.
“This is always exciting,” Leidenfrost said. “We’re going to play in U.S. Bank Stadium next weekend. It’s such a dream. I’m really excited and I’m ready to go.”
For more photos, go to https://bit.ly/2NTXMRO.
Pierz 14 15 0 29 -- 58
Perham 0 8 0 8 -- 16
Prz-Blake Kowalczyk 4 run (Maverick Kowalczyk kick) 5:28
Prz-Matthias Algarin 15 run (M. Kowalczyk kick) 1:11
Per-Colton Hackel 44 run (Finn Diggins pass from Hackel) 10:44
Prz-Preston Veith 15 pass Peter Schommer (M. Kowalczyk run) 8:30
Prz-Blake Kowalczyk 1 run( M. Kowalczyk kick) 2:38
Prz-Carter Moulzolf 20 run (Michael Leidenfrost pass from Schommer) 11:54
Prz-Algarin 9 run (Mason Zajac kick) 9:41
Per-Diggins 14 pass from Hackel (Dawson Kellogg run) 5:35
Prz-Leidenfrost 60 run (Mason Rach run) 5:21
Prz-Ben Virnig 56 run (run failed) 2:10
Rushes-yards: Prz 51-326, Per 37-192
Pass comp-att-int-yds: Prz 3-4-0-41, Per 7-16-0-86
Total offense: Prz 55-367, Per 54-278
Rushing: Prz-Matthias Algarn 18-111, Blake Kowalczyk 18-93, Michael Leidenfrost 11-132, Carter Moulzolf 2-21, Ben Virnig 1-56, Peter Schommer 1-3 ; Per-Colton Hackel 14-115, Dawson Kellogg 17-30, Jordan Muench 5-25, Finn Diggins 2-8, Noah Rooney 2-2, Gabe Bellefeuille 1-5, Gareth Covington 1-7
Passing: Prz-Peter Schommer 3-4-41; Per-Hackel 7-15-86, Diggins 0-1-0
Receiving: Prz-Preston Veith 1-15, Brandon Stuckmayer 1-21, Algarin 1-5; Per-Rooney 4-64, Diggins 2-17, Josh Peterson 1-5
Pierz 58, Perham 16
Key: Pierz rushed for 326 yards
Overall: Prz 12-0, Per 8-4
Next: Pierz vs. Jackson County Central in Class 3A State Semifinal at U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16