The 3A semi-final matchup between Pierz and Rochester Lourdes featured two similar programs. Both like to run the ball using the option but have quarterbacks who can also hurt you in the passing game. In the end, it was the Lourdes’ defense and a huge fourth quarter stop that got the Eagles back to the Prep Bowl.
Trailing by five late in the fourth quarter, Pierz had a first and ten at the Lourdes’ 13-yard line. Ben Limburg made a stop for Lourdes on first down for a short gain. Then on second down, Alex Leary dropped the Pierz running back for a loss of three yards. Faced with a third and long and forced to pass, Pierz’s pass was intercepted by Matthew Hayford. He returned the pick out near midfield. Although both teams would put more points on the board, the defensive stop was the sequence that defined the game. Lourdes would go on to defeat the defending 3A champions 25-20.
Although both teams made their share of big plays on offense early in their 3A semi-final game, neither Rochester Lourdes nor Pierz was able to put up any points in the first quarter.
Pierz was in the red zone until Lourdes Matthew Sather recovered a fumble. On the next play, a swing pass to Zach Jungles got Lourdes across midfield. The drive would go no further. After a punt, Pierz moved the ball across the fifty. They were stopped on a fourth down – giving the ball back to the Eagles.
In the second quarter, both offenses got on track.
Lourdes got the passing game going. Quarterback Hayford completed a pass downfield to Pat Leary to the 25-yard line. Jungles – who would end the game with 110 yards rushing – took a pitch to the outside to set up a first and goal for the Eagles. Two plays later, Jungles took an option pitch for a two-yard touchdown and a 7-0 second quarter lead.
Pierz used a combination of passing by Peter Schommer and a balanced rushing attack to answer right back. Running back Carson Huls would pound his way into the end zone from a yard out. The two-point conversion pass to Reese Kapsner gave the Pioneers an 8-7 lead.
A poor kickoff by Pierz would give Lourdes the ball at their forty-yard line. The option and short passing game got the ball across midfield. Then Hayford found Pat Leary on a post pattern to set up a first and goal. On second and goal the option found pay dirt as Hayford pitched to Jake Groteboer for the touchdown. Hayford kept the ball on the option to convert on the two-point play to give the Eagles a 15-8 lead.
Kapsner got loose for a fifty-yard run to set up the Pioneers’ deep in Eagles’ territory. With the 2nd quarter clock ticking down towards zero, Pierz stayed patient and punched in a touchdown with 18 seconds to play in the half. The one-yard touchdown by Kapsner would make the halftime score Rochester Lourdes 15 Pierz 14.
Coming out of halftime, Hayford ran the Eagles’ option attack to near perfection. Using the dive, the power option and the traditional option, the senior made every correct read to work the ball deep into Pierz territory. Once the Eagles got near the red zone, however, the Pioneers’ defense held up. Lourdes had to settle a 40-yard field goal by Limburg to extend the lead to 18-14. The drive also chewed up nearly half of the third quarter.
While the Pioneers’ defense struggled to slow down the rushing attack of the Eagles, the same could not be said of the Eagles’ defense. They forced a quick three and out giving the ball back to their offense at mid-field. Lourdes tried a halfback pass, but Pierz’s Alex Gross was all over the receiver and intercepted the deep pass to stop the drive.
Pierz would move the ball into Eagles’ territory but faced a fourth and long. A high snap to the punter forced the punter to improvise, and although he prevented a disaster, he was not able to pick up the first down.
Even with good field position, Lourdes could do nothing with it. The Eagles attempted to throw deep, but the Pioneers’ Matthias Algarin intercepted the throw down the sidelines.
After struggling most of the third quarter, Pierz’s offense found its footing early in the fourth. They were able to run in between the tackles with Huls, and that opened up the outside game for Algarin and Gross. Like they had all game, when the Pioneers’ offense got close, the Eagles’ defense stood tall – culminating with Hayford’s interception.
To kill the clock, Lourdes went right to their senior. Groteboer ripped off twenty yards on two carries. Andrew Peine picked up a critical first down right up the middle to keep the clock moving. Groteboer would take an option pitch to the corner and was not stopped until knocked out of bounds inside the one-yard line. Peine would score two plays later to give Lourdes a two-score lead, 25-14, with less than three minutes to play.
Pierz would get back into the end zone, but with just over a minute remaining they had to rely on an onside kick to stay in the game. Lourdes was able to secure the recovery and run out the clock. They will face the winner of the Perham and Fairmont contest starting shortly.