High School Football: Defense propels Pierz into state semifinals

Pierz 9, Albany 0 The key: Albany was in the red zone four times in the second half and didn't score Overall: Pierz 11-0, Albany finishes 9-2 Next: Pierz vs. Tri-City United in Class 3A state semifinals, Park Center High School, 7 p.m. Friday. ST...

Pierz running back Jonny Kasper stretches out to evade an Albany defender during their 3A state quarterfinal game Saturday at St. Cloud State. The Pioneers won 9-0 and will advance to the state semi-final game next week. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls) Gallery

Pierz 9, Albany 0

The key: Albany was in the red zone four times in the second half and didn't score

Overall: Pierz 11-0, Albany finishes 9-2

Next: Pierz vs. Tri-City United in Class 3A state semifinals, Park Center High School, 7 p.m. Friday.

ST. CLOUD - In an era of no-huddle, high-octane spread offenses, smothering defense still wins games.


Pierz and Albany trotted out smash-mouth offenses that were the norm years ago but defense was the difference as the top-ranked Pioneers blanked the third-ranked Huskies 9-0 in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A state tournament Saturday night at St. Cloud State University.

Albany outgained the Pioneers 300-200 in total offense and marched into the red zone four times in the second half only to be denied each time. The Huskies ran 26 more plays from scrimmage than Pierz.

In the second half, Albany limited the Pioneers to 56 total yards and only 16 offensive plays.

In addition, the Huskies had a touchdown nullified by offensive pass interference with eight seconds left in the first half. Another Albany TD was called back due to holding with 4:30 left in the third.

"These two teams are so similar," Pierz head coach Leo Pohlkamp said. "Very physical, pound the ball, but I thought our defense really rose up. I thought we were the best defense tonight."

Pierz certainly bent. Albany standout running back Kyle Birr, a 1,000-yard rusher, carried 34 times for 128 yards. Huskies quarterback Taylor Fourre completed 12 of 22 passes for 136 yards.

But the Huskies just couldn't score. Partially responsible was the fact Albany turned the ball over three times while Pierz coughed it up just once.

"Our defensive coordinator Danny Saehr did a great job coming up with a bunch of defensive game plans for all their sets and plays," Pierz 2-way lineman David Skiba said. "He really did a great job. I'm glad our kids could step up and execute what he wanted."


Defensive back Kolton Eischens echoed Skiba's sentiments about Saehr.

"That was coach Saehr right there," Eischens said. "He watches so much film. He came in Monday and he already had a game plan - I don't know what he does on weekends. He had it narrowed down and we had 7-8 different calls. We knew when they went to a certain set what play they were going to run.

"I won't say it was easy but coach Saehr made it pretty easy for us."

On Pierz's second-to-last possession of the game, the Huskies recovered a fumble at the Pioneers' 24 with 4:38 left. Six plays later Eischens intercepted Fourre and returned it 21 yards.

"The guy ran a post toward the middle. I let that go," Eischens said. "I saw the wheel (route) coming. He was wide open. I roamed over, jumped it and made the pick."

Leading by the final score with 2:04 remaining the Pioneers were stuffed on fourth down and the Huskies were driving to score and hopefully recover an onside kick. Albany marched from the Pierz 36 to the 5 and Pioneers' defensive back Jonny Kaspers batted away Fourre's pass in the end zone to seal his team's 11th straight victory.

One Albany possession in the third ended at the Pioneers' 13. The Huskies' first series in the fourth stalled at the Pierz 7.

The Pioneers play Tri-City United, which eliminated Belle Plaine 41-24 in another quarterfinal, in the Class 3A state semifinals at Park Center High School Friday night.


"It was great to see the kids come together and show some intensity," Skiba said. "We were really bringing it. I'm glad we get to move on."

Pierz's Noah Boser scored the game's only TD from a yard out on the Pioneers' second possession. Preston Rocheleau's kick was no good.

Nick Herold stymied the ensuing Albany possession with a fumble recovery. On Albany's first series in the second quarter, Logan Stangl gathered in another Huskies fumble.

Rocheleau's 22-yard field goal late in the second quarter culminated the scoring.

Rocheleau, a sophomore, replaced senior starting quarterback Aaron Weber who sprained an ankle in the section final against Annandale and did not play Saturday. Weber's status for the state semifinals is uncertain.

"It's a pretty bad sprain," Pohlkamp said. "Aaron came and told us about the only thing he thought he could do was go out of the shotgun and maybe throw but he was pretty gimpy. We said we've got to be able to run the ball and we have to play great defense and great defense won."

Pierz 6 3 0 0 - 9

Albany 0 0 0 0 - 0


First quarter

P-Noah Boser 1 run (kick fails) 6:46

Second quarter

P-Preston Rocheleau 22 FG, 1:20

Team statistics

First downs: P 10, A 17

Rushes-yards: P 43-202, A 53-161

Pass comp-att-int-yds: P 1-5-0-(-3), A 11-21-1-126


Total offense: P 199, A 287

Fumbles-lost: P 1-1, A 2-2

Individual leaders

Rushing: Prz-Noah Boser 14-83, Jonny Kasper 10-46, Lane Girtz 17-69, Derick Hall 2-6; A-Taylor Fourre 5-2, Kyle Birr 34-128, Will Kleinschmidt 4-8, Alex Wolf 3-17, Max Carlson 5-11, Neal Anderson 1-(-4), Gabe Haakonson 1-2

Passing: Prz-Preston Rocheleau 1-4-(-3), Noah Boser 0-1-0; A-Taylor Fourre 12-22-136

Receiving: Prz-Michael Meyer 1-(-3); A-Robbie Benson 5-31, Will Kleinschmidt 2-18, Neal Anderson 1-9, Gabe Haakonson 1-11, Kyle Birr 4-41, Max Carlson 2-26

MIKE BIALKA may be reached at or 218-855-5861. Follow on Twitter at .


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