High School Football: Pierz prepares for yet another section final
One would think this is getting to be boring.
But it’s not for the Pierz Pioneers who will play in their seventh straight section final when they face No. 1 seeded Albany in the Section 6-3A Championship Friday, Nov. 1, at St. Cloud State University.
Class 3A’s top-ranked Pioneers landed the No. 2 seed in the section brackets despite a 10-0 record and being the two-time defending 6-3A champions. That didn’t seem to bother the Pioneers who destroyed St. Cloud Cathedral in the quarterfinals 57-14 and then blanked No. 3 seeded Minnewaska 48-0 in the section semifinal Saturday, Oct. 26
“They’re ready to go,” Pierz head coach Danny Saher said. “I thought we were very dialed in on Saturday night. After the game, our coaches agreed that was our most complete game of the year. I thought all three phases of the game our kids were very sharp and they were focused.
“After the Minnewaska game, we turned our attention to Albany and there were a lot of eyes looking at us and you could tell they were ready for this game. We had kids getting cranked already on Monday and we had to shut things down because it was already getting too physical. It tells you they are ready to go.”
The top-seeded and unbeaten Huskies (10-0) do own Class 3A’s top Quality Results Formula ranking. According to the QRF, Pierz is the No. 4 ranked team in 3A.
Albany eliminated Sauk Centre 67-7 in the quarterfinals and then topped No. 4 seeded New London-Spicer 28-0 Saturday.
“We played them back in 2015 and as far as I can remember that’s our only encounter with them,” Saher said. “We get a couple of films on them just like they do on us and they’re very good football team. They are very well coached. They are big and physical. We were looking at them all year long because we knew there was a possibility that we would run into them at some point. We were well aware of them come preseason.”
The first and only game between these two teams came in the Class 3A State Quarterfinals. Pierz eliminated Albany 9-0 at St. Cloud state.
Neither team’s offensive philosophy has changed much from that matchup.
“They definitely want to establish the run first. They have a very good blocking scheme. They run some of the same stuff that we do. We got a few of our things from them. It’s going to be a chess match because whichever team is able to win the line of scrimmage and some one-on-one battles will have an advantage.”
Pierz’s offense is still run dominate, however, the passing game has picked up with senior Peter Schommer behind center. Schommer is 32-of-56 passing for 825 yards and nine touchdowns to just three interceptions. His top target is Mathais Algarin who has 13 catches for 356 yards and four TDs. Preston Veith has five catches for 98 yards and it was Veith who had a big game in last year’s section final victory over New London-spicer.
“First off, we have a lot of confidence in our senior quarterback Peter Schommer. He played half of the time last year on a team that made it to the state semifinals. He’s very poised and a very good passer. He has athletic ability so if stuff breaks down he can scramble and make some throws on the run. He just does a great job of running our offense.
“With him and some of the weapons we have in the passing game with our receivers, we’ve been able to open things up a little more and I think that’s also opened our running game because of that.”
Michael Leidenfrost had a big game against Minnewaska with a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown and then a 72-yard run for a score.
Leidenfrost has four catches for 133 yards and two scores. He’s also carried the ball 57 times for 381 yards and six TDs.
Fullback Blake Kowalczyk has 13 TDS to go with 556 yards on 73 carries, but Albany should be focused on the speedy Algarin who has 821 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. His longest touchdown run covered 70 yards. He also has a 72-yard touchdown reception and Saturday returned a punt 68 yards for a score.
If Pierz’s offense falters, the Pioneers’ defense is equally as explosive. In Pierz’s 10 wins, five were shutout victories. Three other games saw Pierz allow just one touchdown for a 6.2 points-allowed-per-game average. That’s the best in Class 3A.
“I thought, on Saturday night, it was again our most complete performance of the year,” Saher said. “I think our biggest strength on our defense is our speed. We feel like we have pretty quick kids at all three levels and we have a number of returning starters from last year. Their biggest strength is they are very smart and they catch on to things we are telling them. They understand other team’s strengths and what we need to take away and they are able to adjust on the go. This group is also very good at adjusting on the fly.”
One other key for Pierz and it was former head coach Leo Pohlkamp’s biggest factor entering the postseason and that is - Pierz is healthy.
Section 6-3A Final
Who: No. 1 seeded Albany (10-0) vs. No. 2 seeded Pierz (10-0)
QRF: No. 1 Albany (94.0), No. 4 Pierz (80.2)
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1
Where: St. Cloud State University
Last matchup: Pierz defeated Albany 9-0 in 2015 3A State Quarterfinal