MINNEAPOLIS — Mattias Algrain’s third touchdown of the game with 38 seconds remaining clinched the Class 3A state title for the Pierz Pioneers with a 28-27 victory over the Dassel-Cokato Chargers Saturday, Nov. 30, at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The state championship for Pierz marks their third state title in five years. It also capped off a 14-0 season for the Pioneers.
“What a game,” Pierz head coach Dan Saehr said. “That’s probably everything a championship game is supposed to be. We are so proud of these kids here.”
In D-C territory, the Pioneers looked at a fourth and 1 with their season on the line and 55 second remaining. It was Algarin who picked up the much needed first down to keep the drive going.
“I just knew I needed one yard right there,” Algarin said. “I just had to find the hole and see what I can get.”
The next play Schommer found Algarin on a fade route that put Pierz at the 2-yard line and on the doorstep of taking the lead.
“The key is a playmaker,” Saehr said of Algarin. “We put him in the position to make plays and he’d be the first to tell you, he doesn’t make some of those plays if the line doesn’t block for him and Peter isn’t throwing the ball to where it needs to be.”
Algarin then punched it in for a third time and after a 4th and 18 fell incomplete for the Chargers with two seconds remaining the Pioneers could celebrate as state champions after a kneel down.
“We told them we were not preventing a touchdown, but a field goal,” Saehr said. “We knew their quarterback had a good leg.”
Algarin said after the game the team played with a lot of heart that final drive to score the game-winning touchdown.
“We have worked the last six years for this moment, so it felt amazing,” Algarin said.
D-C got things started on their fourth play from scrimmage. On a fourth and 1, Gillman ran the ball 71 yards for the first score of the game.
Pierz answered with a quick drive of their own. Agarin scored from 2 yards out to tie the game.
The Chargers faced a fourth and 17 from the Pierz 37-yard line on their next drive. Quarterback Sanders Asplin found Gillman for a 37-yard touchdown to regain the lead.
“Everything was going right,” Gillman said. “Blockers kept doing their job and making it easy for me to get through.”
It was Alragin again with a 44-yard run at the start of the second quarter to tie the game 14-14. The long touchdown run put Alragin over 100 yards rushing for the game with just a little over 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
D-C used up nearly nine minutes of game clock on their third drive and fullback Josh DeBoer found the end zone from 3 yards out to put the Chargers up 21-14. Gillman picked off Pierz quarterback Peter Schommer to end the first half.
Both Algarin and Gillman found themselves over 100 yards rushing at halftime. Gillman had 152 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns to pace the Chargers offense.
The Chargers outgained the Pioneers 258-176 in the first half and held the ball for nearly 16 minutes. D-C also converted all four of its fourth downs in the first half, scoring two of their three touchdowns on them.
“We threw everything at them defensively,” Saehr said. “It might not look like it, but they were just getting surges with their backs.”
Pierz started the second half with an 85-yard drive that ate up 7:15 of clock.
Michael Leidenfrost was the main ball carrier for the Pioneers on the drive and his 4-yard touchdown run, followed by his two-point conversion, gave Pierz its first lead at 22-21.
“That was big,” Leidenfrost said of the opening drive of the second half. “It got everyone fired up. It was a good way to start and really set the tone for the second half.”
On a third and long, Asplin kept the ball on an option play and scampered 32 yards into the end zone to help the Chargers regain the lead.
Through three quarters, neither team punted. D-C was able to stop Pierz on its next drive and the first punt of the game came by Pierz with nine minutes remaining in the game.
Looking to close out Pierz and claim the Class 3A title, the Chargers marched down the field. A holding penalty,however, forced a third and long situation. Then on fourth and nine from the Pioneers’ 35 yard line, D-C punted for the first time.
The punt was nearly downed at the 1 yard line, which would have forced the Pioneers to drive 99 yards. The ball rolled into the end zone and Pierz took over at its own 20.
“We were pretty on schedule until we got that holding call,” D-C head coach Ryan Weinandt said. “Sanders was about a half inch from making them drive 99 yards. I thought our defense had settled in a little and were ready to make one last stop.”
Algarin finished with 165 yards rushing on 22 carries and three touchdowns. Leidenfrost also was over 100 yards rushing and scored one touchdown.
For the Chargers, Gillman finished with 187 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. Asplin also rushed for 105 yards and one touchdown.
Schommer completed 5-8 passes for Pierz and none bigger than the fade to Algarin on the final drive to get them to the 2-yard line.
Saehr finishes his first season as head coach 14-0 and a state champion.
“Our kids played their hearts out,” Saehr said. “We had our backs against the wall two weeks in a row. Had to make a drive with under three minutes to play, converted a few fourth downs. We always ask them to do their job and leave it on the field and today was no different.”
Dassel-Cokato 14 7 6 0 -- 27
Pierz 7 7 8 6 -- 28
DC-Eli Gillman 71 run touchdown (Sanders Asplin kick) 10:08
Prz-Mattias Algarin 2 run touchdown (Maverick Kowalczyk kick) 5:32
DC-Gillman 37 pass from Asplin (Asplin kick) 0:50
Prz-Algarin 44 run (Kowalczyk kick) 10:13
DC-Josh DeBoer 3 run (Asplin kick) 1:19
Prz-Michael Leidenfrost 4 run (Leidenfrost run) 4:45
DC-Asplin 32 run (pass failed) 0:24
Prz-Algarin 2 run (pass failed) 0:38
Rushes-yards: Prz 47-302, DC 52-333
Pass comp-att-int-yds: Prz 5-8-1-65, DC 2-7-0-50
Total offense: Prz 55-367, DC5 7-383
Rushing: Prz-Mattias Algarin 22-165, Michael Leidenfrost 18-101, Blake Kowalczyk 5-32, Issac Otte 2-7; DC-Eli Gillman 20-150, Sanders Asplin 14-105, Josh Deboer 12-44, Cole Evjen 7-27
Passing: Prz-Peter Schommer 5-8-1-65; DC-Sanders Asplin 2-7-0-50
Receiving: Prz-Mattias Algarin 2-44, Michael Leidenfrost 2-15, Isaac Otte 1-6; DC-Eli Gillman 1-37, Joel Selseth 1-13
Pierz 28, Dassel-Cokato 27
Key: Mattias Algarin three touchdowns, none bigger than the one with 38 seconds remaining to give the Pioneers to lead.
Overall: Prz 14-0, DC 10-4