The dream senior season for Matthias Algarin ended with him in the end zone with 38 seconds left in the Class 3A Prep Bowl.
Algarin’s 3-yard touchdown ended up being the game-winning score for the Pierz Pioneers third state title in five years and capped off an undefeated season for the senior captain.
“Probably the greatest moment of my life,” Algarin said of his Prep Bowl performance. “It’s the peak of my high school career. Especially that last drive.”
The last drive started at Pierz’s own 11-yard line and Algarin racked up 73 all-purpose yards on the drive. On a fourth and one, he powered his way through the line to keep the drive alive. He then caught a 22-yard pass from quarterback Peter Schommer to get the Pioneers to the 3-yard line.
“I was hyped after that catch,” Alargin said. “I just had so much energy and adrenaline rolling in that moment. I just knew we had to do what we had to do to get down the field. To get that catch down at the 3-yard line yard, gosh, it just felt so great. I got a little emotional at that moment and we hadn’t even scored yet.”
Committed to the University of Nebraska next year for football and track, Algarin finished the Prep Bowl with 165 yards rushing and three touchdowns against Dassel-Cokato. His stellar play all season, however, earns him the Brainerd Dispatch player of the year for 2019.
“Every team that makes a run has a player they go to in crunch time and his playmaking ability was the No. 1 reason why we wanted the ball in his hands,” Pierz head coach Dan Saehr said. “And he proved he is clearly one of the better playmakers in Class 3A.”
Since seventh grade, Algarin and his teammates knew they had a special group of football players. They expected to be playing for a state championship and they did with Algarin being one of the main players leading them there.
“We have lost two games ever,” Algarin said of the 2019 seniors. “Last year, we lost to Rochester Lourdes (in the state semifinals) and then we lost to Royalton in eighth grade. Those are the only two losses I can remember. We knew we had a good class. Guys coming into the weight room and getting in shape and doing everything they could to prepare because they knew we had something special.”
For the season, Algarin rarely came off the field for the Pioneers.
Being on the field the whole game, Algarin admitted to sometimes being tired playing all those snaps, but overall he thought of it as an honor.
“It felt great to be out there every single play trying to make plays for my team, especially this year,” he said. “We had a talented class and just to be out there and work with those guys for a whole game was great.”
Algarin led the Pioneers in rushing with 1,278 yards and receiving with 21 catches for 503 yards. He scored 32 total touchdowns, including three punt returns for scores. Algrain picked up 424 punt return yards and 159 kick return yards. Overall, Algarin scored 208 points for a Pierz offense that scored a total of 599 points over 14 games.
On defense, he finished ninth in total tackles with 34. He played defensive back and tallied two interceptions and 18 pass breakups.
Algarin’s speed was what gave opposing coaches nightmares when gameplanning for Pierz. Jackson County Central head coach Tom Schuller mentioned before his team played the Pioneers in the state semifinals that Algarin had NFL type speed.
For Saehr, he thought Algarin’s intelligences on the field helped him as much as his physical abilities.
“He is such a smart football player,” Saehr said. “He is such a savvy football player and we have noticed that since his sophomore season and very coachable.
“A player of his caliber -- we needed him on the field. We told him that before the season that he might not be coming out a lot for us. He is in very good shape to do that and he is a game changer out there.”
Algarin mentioned his relationship with his offensive line that helped him rack up over 1,000 yards rushing. He felt his 24 touchdowns on the ground were just as much his offensive line’s touchdowns as they were his.
“Football is a team game,” Algarin said. “You can’t play one on eleven. There is no way you are going to win. I can’t take full credit for all those touchdowns I had this year. Obviously, it starts up front.”
Algarin may be getting the recognition, but his teammates in the backfield -- Blake Kowalczyk and Michael Leidenfrost -- helped keep the defense honest and take a little pressure off of him.
Kowalczyk finished second on the team in rushing with 888 yards and 18 touchdowns. Leidenfrost was third with 679 yards and eight touchdowns.
On punts, it was always Leidenfrost and Algarin back and the Pioneers could run reverses and keep the defense guessing with two dynamic playmakers back returning the ball.
“Teams were not kicking to him,” Saehr said. “Anytime you can have a weapon in the return game it can put a lot of stress on the other team. It really takes a toll throughout the course of a game.”
Going to play at the next level will be a challenge Algarin eagerly awaits. Having a dual scholarship in track and football guarantees his time at Nebraska will be paid for as long as he stays playing athletics whether on the gridiron or on the track.
“Right now, I’m going to try and do both,” Algarin said. “In a couple of weeks here, I’ll be signing a dual sports signing thing. I’ll start out on a track scholarship, but once I step on the football field it will be a football scholarship.”
Saehr said it was Algarin’s character and leadership that he will remember most. He felt Algarin got better every season and improved game to game in each season.
“It’s cool to see when your senior leaders can step up and do that,” Saehr said.
For Algarin, what he will remember most about playing football for Pierz is how supportive the community of Pierz was toward him and his teammates.
“That’s a big reason why we have a winning tradition in football,” he said. “The community is behind it and everyone is pushed by that in a good way.”
School: Pierz High School
Position: Running back, Defensive back, returner
Season Stats: 1,278 yards rushing, 21 catches for 503 receiving yards, 424 punt return yards, 159 kick return yards, 32 total touchdowns.
Next Year: football and track at the University of Nebraska
All-Area Football Players of Year
2019: Matthias Algarin, Pierz
2018: Reese Kapsner, Pierz
2017: Charlie Geraets, BRD
2016: Noah Gindorff, C-I
2015: Noah Boser, Pierz
2014: Robbie Skiba, Pierz
2013: Conor Gessel BRD, Cole Smith BRD
2012: Josh Lanners, Pierz
2011: Jake Kassulker, BRD
2010: Jordan Hayes BRD; Zach Horejsi, Little Falls
2009: Kyle Crocker, BRD