The Pierz Pioneers used a three-headed running attack and a dominant performance from its offensive line to defeat the Perham Yellowjackets 58-16 in the Class AAA Quarterfinals at Alexandria High School on Nov. 9.
The Pioneers had a pair of running backs eclipse the 100-yard mark in the win and a third come within seven yards. Michael Leidenfrost rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown, while University of Nebraska commit Matthias Algarin added 111 yards and two scores.
“We didn’t show up to play, and they did,” Perham head coach Kyle Knutson said. “They are an outstanding football team and we just couldn’t get things done.”
The Pioneers set the tone up early with their powerful offensive line. They opened holes for Blake Kowalczyk, Algarin and Leidenfrost during the opening quarter when they grabbed a 14-0 lead behind a 4-yard run and a 15-yard run from Kowalczyk and Algarin, respectively. The first scoring drive was 10 plays, while the second one was six plays.
“They owned the line of scrimmage for the most part,” Knutson said. “Our scheme was fine, and I thought we put people in position to make plays, but they were more physical than we were.”
Perham answered back in the second quarter. Colton Hackel was back to punt, but it was blocked. He recovered it behind the line of scrimmage and fired to Noah Rooney down the sideline for the first down. The play set up Perham’s first score when Hackel faked the hand off and took off down the left side for the 44-yard touchdown. Hackel connected with Finn Diggins for the 2-point try.
However, the Pierz offense was clicking on all cylinders. The Pioneers answered with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Preston Veith from Peter Schommer. It was one of three pass completions for Schommer in the win.
Blake Kowalczyk finished another scoring drive with a 1-yard run late in the second quarter to make it 29-8 at the half.
The Pioneers defense was strong as well, limiting the Perham offense throughout. Hackel finished with 112 yards on the ground and 87 yards through the air. Rooney finished with four receptions for 65 yards, while Dawson Kellogg rushed for 30 yards for the Yellowjackets.
The Pioneers used a long drive that carried into the fourth quarter to seal the victory. Carter Moulzolf broke free for a 20-yard touchdown run to make it 37-8 in the fourth quarter.
Algarin added a 9-yard run to make it 44-8 in the fourth quarter before Perham struck back. Hackel finished off an 11 play drive with a 14-yard pass to Diggins. Kellogg converted the try to make it 44-16.
However, a pair of 1-play drives for Pierz ended the game with a 60-yard run from Leidenforst and a 56-yard run by Virnig closed out the scoring.
Blake Kowalczyk finished with 93 yards and two scores for the Pioneers. Pierz finished with 367 yards of offense in the win.
The Pioneers improved to 12-0 on the season and will now play Jackson County Central at US Bank Stadium on Nov. 16 in the Class AAA semifinals.
Perham finishes the 2019 season with an 8-4 mark. It was Perham’s second consecutive trip to the Class AAA Tournament and eighth appearance at the state tournament.
Knutson said the senior’s class impact on the Perham football program was immeasurable.
“This group of seniors are just outstanding,” Knutson said. “They are outstanding people and outstanding young men. I feel blessed to have been able to work with them. The leadership that they have provided and what they brought to this program is tremendous. They are going to be missed.”
PRZ 14 15 0 29--58
PER 0 8 0 8--16
PRZ- Blake Kowalczyk 4-yard run (Maverick Kowalczyk kick)
PRZ- Matthias Algarin 15-yard run (M. Kowalczyk kick)
PER-Colton Hackel 44-yard run (Hackel to Finn Diggins)
PRZ-Preston Veith 15-yard pass from Peter Schommer (Maverick Kowalczyk run)
PRZ-Blake Kowalczyk 1-yard run (M. Kowalczyk kick)
PRZ- Carter Moulzolf 20-yard run (Michael Leidenfrost pass from Schommer)
PRZ- Algarin 9-yard run (Mason Zajac kick)
PER- Finn Diggins 14-yard pass from Hackel (Dawson Kellogg run)
PRZ- Michael Leidenfrost 60-yard run (Mason Rach run)
PRZ- Benjamin Virnig 56-yard run (conversion failed)