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State Football: Pierz primed for 3A title defense

Pierz's road to a Class 3A state title defense will not be easy and it starts with No. 6-ranked Annandale at 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at St. Cloud State University. The top-ranked Pioneers, winners of 23 straight, own a Quality Results Formula r...

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Pierz's road to a Class 3A state title defense will not be easy and it starts with No. 6-ranked Annandale at 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at St. Cloud State University.

The top-ranked Pioneers, winners of 23 straight, own a Quality Results Formula ranking of 3 despite holding teams to 3A's second-lowest average of 10.4 points per game and averaging 49.4 points per game, which is tops in 3A

The Pioneers have advanced to their 15th state tournament and sixth straight. In those six years, they've won state titles in 2015 and last year.

"The best thing I liked our about our (Section 6-3A title win) was our pass defense was good," Pierz head coach Leo Pohlkamp said. "People were ripping us about our pass defense, but I thought they played very well. At the beginning of the year, we had some new kids back there and we just had to keep coaching and coaching and that's one of the things in high school-They improve so much as the year goes and we'll need that pass defense against Annandale because they're very good."

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Class 3A quarterfinals

  • Who: Section 6-3A champion Pierz Pioneers (10-0) vs. Section 5-3A winner Annandale Cardinals (9-1)
  • When: 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10
  • Where: St. Cloud State University
  • For: Class 3A state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17

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The sixth-ranked Cardinals own the top QRF ranking and a 9-1 record. This will be the Cardinals' third state trip and first since 2012. Annandale's lone loss was 29-26 to Dassel-Cokato in Week Two.

The Cardinals won the Section 5-3A title by beating Milaca 22-6 and then upsetting No. 3-ranked Mora 27-12. Annadale was the top seed for Section 5, however, and outscored opponents 26.2-11.0 for the fourth-lowest points-against average in 3A.

"It's fun to play different teams and we finally get out of our section and there's Pierz again," said Annandale head coach Matt Walter. "A former player of ours called me the other day and said, 'I am so sick of reading about Pierz in the Brainerd Dispatch. Beat them so they can talk about somebody besides Pierz.'

"They're just so successful. They just have it going on and it's every year. We played them in 2015 in the first game of the year and they just blew us out. Then we played them again for the section championship and it was an 18-12 game. It was just a great game and I'm hoping it's that type of game."

The Cardinals are led by 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior quarterback Peyton Fobbe, who has thrown for 1,697 yards and 17 touchdowns with just four interceptions and rushed for 695 yards and nine scores. His 140 completions this season are a school record.

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"He's the clear scrambler. Wow," Pohlkamp said. "He's their leading rusher, too. He's the one who makes all of their plays. When things break down, he makes the plays. He's a scrambler and the ball comes out of his hands really quick. He rolls out to his left just as well as he does to his right and throws on the run. They set up where he has the blocking where he can get out of the pocket and find that extra time.

"Their quarterback throws to all four receivers as well as running backs out of the backfield. It's a pretty wide-open offense. I don't know what we would compare it to. We do play the spread against Melrose and Eden Valley-Watkins, but it all starts with a very, very good quarterback."

Sophomore running back Riley Niedzielski has 277 yards and three scores on just 33 carries. Fobbe's top targets have been Paul Meyer, a 6-foot-3 junior wideout, who has 40 receptions for 717 yards and seven TDs, and senior Cam Howard who has 38 catches for 354 yards and four scores.

"Peyton is 13-1 as a starter for us," Walter said. "He started four games for us last year before breaking his leg against Litchfield. We thought we were a state team last year and then when his injury happened that kind of limited us.

"We're a spread offense. We try to keep the ball in his hands. He ran a lot against Mora. He had every rushing play for us. I don't think you'll see that against Pierz. He can just do it all. He throws the ball great. He has an unbelievable arm. He's extremely accurate and just a tremendous athlete with the ball in his hands.

"Teams try to key on him, but it's really hard to do because he's not just throwing it to one or two guys. We have five or six guys who are catching the ball. It's just who is open. We take what the defense gives us and we have five or six kids who can make plays for us catching the football. Peyton does a great job of not forcing it. He takes what the defense gives him and if they're sitting back he'll take off and run with it. He keeps all the receivers working hard because they know if they do that there is a chance he's going to get them the ball."

Annandale has turned the ball over just six times. It has collected 18 interceptions and 16 quarterback sacks on defense.

Pierz has outscored opponents 303-52 in the first half alone. The Pioneers are led by senior back Reese Kapsner who has 1,474 yards and 21 touchdowns on just 124 carries (11.9 yards per carry).

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Senior fullback Carson Huls has 245 yards and 10 TDs in just six games. Carter Moulzolf has rushed for 379 yards and two scores. Alex Gross has 374 yards and four scores. Matthias Algarin has 264 yards and five scores.

Algarin scored twice in Pierz's 44-6 defeat of New London-Spicer in the Section 6 title game. His 67-yard TD reception opened Pierz's scoring. Algarin is the top receiver with eight catches for 182 yards and two scores. Preston Veith has six catches for 89 yards and three scores. Kapsner has four catches for 108 yards and a score.

"Hopefully they all have strep," Walter said with a laugh. "We've had a terrible week of being sick so hopefully they got it too, but I doubt it. You watch them on film, and we've known Leo forever and Pierz forever, and it's amazing how you can line up in the same formation year in and year out and play the same teams year in and year out and you still can run successfully the same play over and over again.

"That's just how well-coached they are. They are so well-coached and those kids are so tough and disciplined in their assignments. It's impressive to watch when you're going over film. Those guys do not miss a block."

Walter was excited about his defense. He said teams have not run the ball on the Cardinals all season. Albany, Delano, Mora all struggled to run the ball against the Cardinals, Walter said.

"We're big up front for the first time," he added. "We're also very athletic up front. I think it will be a great clash. Our defense is big, physical and we tackle well. Pierz is the same way on offense. I think it will be interesting. I don't think we'll stop them. I don't think anybody stops Pierz, but I think we'll be able to slow them down."

Luke Girtz leads the Pioneers' defense with 69 tackles followed by 50 each from Kapsner and Brandon Tomala. Veith leads Pierz with 5.5 sacks, but Zach Traut has five as Pierz has 22 quarterback sacks, 42 pass breakups and eight interceptions. Kapsner has six of those, returning two for scores.

"We have to rush the quarterback hard, but in control," Pohlkamp said. "Their quarterback is so elusive. I saw on film, but when they played Albany, they had six guys coming in from the outside and even Houdini shouldn't have been able to escape that pass rush. That's the first play we showed to our team when we watched the film. It was the 51st play of the game and I said, 'This guy is elusive.' We have to tackle well. (Fobbe) makes the plays. He is their team. He takes some licks and keeps on going."

Reese Kapsner
Reese Kapsner

Related Topics: PIERZ PIONEERS
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