Prep football: Ailing Pierz prepares for state semis

Prep football: Ailing Pierz prepares for state semis

News

Prep football: Ailing Pierz prepares for state semis

By

Pierz's Jonny Kasper breaks into open field against Annandale for a gain in the first half. Kasper is battling back from a twisted ankle injury.

Pierz’s Jonny Kasper breaks into open field against Annandale for a gain in the first half. Kasper is battling back from a twisted ankle injury.

Pierz's Derick Hall breaks through the Annandale line on a run in the first half.

Pierz’s Derick Hall breaks through the Annandale line on a run in the first half.

Pierz's Derick Hall breaks an Annandale tackler and looks for an open lane to run in the first half Oct. 4 at Husky Stadium. The PIoneers play Tri-City United in the Class 3A state semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday at Park Center High School in Brooklyn Park.

Pierz’s Derick Hall breaks an Annandale tackler and looks for an open lane to run in the first half Oct. 4 at Husky Stadium. The PIoneers play Tri-City United in the Class 3A state semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday at Park Center High School in Brooklyn Park.

Lane Girtz rushes for Pierz during the first half of the game early this season in Eden Valley. The Pioneers are 11-0 and ranked No. 1 in Class 3A going into the state semifinals.

Lane Girtz rushes for Pierz during the first half of the game early this season in Eden Valley. The Pioneers are 11-0 and ranked No. 1 in Class 3A going into the state semifinals.

The ball bounces past Kolton Eischens (20) of Pierz and Kyle Birr (33) of Albany during the state quarterfinals game at Husky Stadium in St. Cloud. The Pioneers shut out Albany to advance to Friday's Class 3A state semifinals.

The ball bounces past Kolton Eischens (20) of Pierz and Kyle Birr (33) of Albany during the state quarterfinals game at Husky Stadium in St. Cloud. The Pioneers shut out Albany to advance to Friday’s Class 3A state semifinals.

Pierz's Lane Girtz (46) kicks off in the second quarter of this season's game in Holdingford. The Pioneers are undefeated and looking to reach the state championship game.

Pierz’s Lane Girtz (46) kicks off in the second quarter of this season’s game in Holdingford. The Pioneers are undefeated and looking to reach the state championship game.

BROOKLYN PARK — Leo Pohlkamp admits his team is a dealing with an assortment of sprained ankles, bumps, bruises and even a case of walking pneumonia.

It’s not surprising for a team that is 11-0 and been going at it hard since Aug. 3.

But this won’t be the weekend to heal.

The top-ranked Pierz Pioneers play Tri-City United (10-1) at 7 pm.. Friday in the state Class 3A semifinals at Park Center High School.

“I’m not making excuses,” said Pohlkamp, the Pioneers’ head coach. “But we are a little beat up.”

Pierz is one of three Times-area teams alive in the state semifinals.

In Class 4A, top-ranked Becker (11-0) plays second-ranked Stewartville (11-0) at 7 p.m. Friday in Chanhassen. And, fifth-ranked South St. Paul (10-1) plays Rocori (9-3) at 4 p.m. Saturday in Maple Grove.

All involved seek entrance into the Prep Bowl on Nov. 13-14 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

In last week’s 9-0 state quarterfinal win over Albany, Pierz played without starting quarterback Aaron Weber. Weber sprained his ankle at the end of the Pioneers’ Section 6-3A final win over Annandale.

Aaron Weber turns to hand the ball off to a running back during practice for Pierz in the preseason. Weber sprained his ankle in the section championship game and did not play in the state quarterfinals.

Aaron Weber turns to hand the ball off to a running back during practice for Pierz in the preseason. Weber sprained his ankle in the section championship game and did not play in the state quarterfinals.

Preston Rocheleau, also Pierz’s kicker, filled in for Weber and did well, Pohlkamp said. The Pioneers also went at times with a wildcat formation against Annandale, allowing running back Noah Boser to be the primary ball-handler.

Weber returned to practice Wednesday but his status is uncertain for Friday, Pohlkamp said.

The Pioneers also played with leading rusher Jonny Kasper dealing with a twisted ankle that he suffered in the Annandale game. He also has dealt with an ankle sprain that took him out for a couple of weeks during the regular season. He’s expected to play.

Pierz also lost David Skiba, a two-way lineman and the Pioneers’ biggest starter, to a fourth-quarter ankle sprain against Albany.

And, two-way starter Logan Stangl played both ways against Albany with an upper respiratory issue that turned out to be walking pneumonia, Pohlkamp said.

“He had a 104-degree temperature,” Pohlkamp said.

Jonny Kasper of Pierz tries to get past Jonathan Bauer of Albany during a game at Husky Stadium in St. Cloud.

Jonny Kasper of Pierz tries to get past Jonathan Bauer of Albany during a game at Husky Stadium in St. Cloud.

All are concerns as the Pioneers prepare for Tri-City United, a power-running team. The Titans primarily use the I-formation and have a huge offensive line.

“Their nose guard is 330 pounds and both tackles are 300,” Pohlkamp said. “They’ve got some beef up front.

“They kind of remind me of Melrose.”

The program is made up of Montgomery, Lonsdale and LeCenter.The Titans were tied for third with Albany in the final state Associated Press Poll and are coached by Ken Helland, a well-respected veteran coach.

Tri-City United has a workhorse running back named Aaron Chimal. If things are going well for the Titans, he’ll get the ball 30-plus times.

They also have a good left-handed quarterback, Trevor Smisek. His favorite targets are a pair of tall receivers, Jackson Feddema and Carter Rynda.

“They’ll be a challenge for us,” Pohlkamp said.

Tri-City United has rallied from two-touchdown deficits in its last two games, coming back to beat Plainview-Elgin-Millville 13-12 in the Section 1-4A final. The Titans then beat Belle Plaine 41-24 after an early 14-0 deficit in the state quarterfinals.

Pierz is in the state semifinals for the second straight year and has a senior-dominated squad. The Pioneers lost to 25-24 to Rochester Lourdes last season.

“Our kids definitely remember that one,” Pohlkamp said.

Pierz coaches and players watch the action during a game at Husky Stadium in St. Cloud. The Pioneers are playing in the Class 3A state semifinals for the second straight season.

Pierz coaches and players watch the action during a game at Husky Stadium in St. Cloud. The Pioneers are playing in the Class 3A state semifinals for the second straight season.

A quick look at the other two games involving area teams:

Rematch for Becker

The defending state champion Bulldogs (11-0) beat second-ranked Stewartville (11-0), 39-20 on their way to the 2014 Class 4A title.

It’s a lot of the same faces for the Tigers (and for Becker as well).

Stewartville has two top rushers, Jordan Johnson and Brandon Hoth. Johnson also is Stewartville’s leading tackler.

The Tigers also throw the ball well.

Quarterback Andrew Quandt has completed 146 of 239 passes for 1,983 yards and 29 touchdowns with seven interceptions.

Quandt’s top targets are Chye Stecher and Lucas Scruggs.

They may need to throw. Last year, Becker held Stewartville to 26 yards rushing on 26 attempts.

Several big reasons for that, including defensive end Dillon Radunz, defensive tackle Casey Vesledahl and linebacker Beau Pauly and Milan Kent are all back to lead Becker.

Radunz (6-foot-6, 260, sr.) has verbally committed to North Dakota State. He’s a top-10 Mr. Minnesota Football finalist. Becker head coach Dwight Lundeen said that he might be the best player he has coached in 46 years.

Spartans face powerful Packers

Rocori head coach Mike Rowe thinks the objectives are deceptively simple in order for the Spartans to advance to the Prep Bowl for the second time in five years.

They have to maintain a good balance offensively, mixing the run and the pass in their no-huddle spread offense led by junior quarterback Connor Schoborg.

And defensively, they can’t allow South St. Paul to to control the line of scrimmage and kill the clock with their running game that is led by senior quarterback Dan Pietruszewski.

“We’ve got to be able to do both (offensively) and we’ve got to stop their run,” Rowe said.

The Packers play for their first Prep Bowl berth in school history.


State playoff pairings

Class 6A

Semifinal Thursday

Osseo (8-3) vs. No. 7 Totino-Grace (9-2), 7 p.m. at Minnetonka

Semifinal Friday

No. 2 East Ridge (10-1) vs. No. 6 Maple Grove (9-2), 7 p.m. at Eden Prairie

Final Friday, Nov. 13

Semifinal winners, 7 p.m. at TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

Class 5A

Semifinal Friday

No. 5 St. Thomas Academy (10-1) vs. No. 2 Moorhead (11-0), 7 p.m. at Minnetonka

Semifinal Saturday

No. 1 Mankato West (11-0) vs. No. 4 St. Michael-Albertville (10-1), 6 p.m. at Prior Lake

Final Saturday, Nov. 14

Semifinal winners, 4 p.m. at TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

Class 4A

Semifinal Saturday

No. 5 South St. Paul (10-1) vs. Rocori (9-3), 4 p.m. at Maple Grove

Semifinal Friday

No. 2 Stewartville (11-0) vs. No. 1 Becker (11-0), 7 p.m. at Chanhassen

Final Friday, Nov. 13

Semifinal winners, 4 p.m. at TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

Class 3A

Semifinal Friday

No. 1 Pierz (11-0) vs. No. 3 Tri-City United (10-1), 7 p.m. at Park Center

Semifinal Saturday

No. 9 Jackson County Central (9-2) vs. No. 2 Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (10-1), 1 p.m. at Maple Grove

Final Saturday,  Nov. 14

Semifinal winners, 1 p.m. at TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

Class 2A

Semifinal Friday

No. 2 Pipestone (12-0) vs. United North Central (9-2), 8 p.m. at St. Cloud State

Semifinal Saturday

No. 1 Caledonia (12-0) vs. No. 4 Ottertail Central (11-0), 1 p.m. at Mounds View

Final Friday, Nov. 13

Semifinal winners, 1 p.m. at TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

Class A

Semifinals Saturday

No. 4 Minneapolis North (11-0) vs. No. 3 Braham (11-0), 8 p.m. at St. Cloud State

Goodhue (9-3) vs. No. 1 Minneota (12-0), 3 p.m. at Prior Lake

Final Saturday, Nov. 14

Semifinal winners, 10 a.m. at TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

Class Nine-Man

Semifinal Friday

No. 3 Underwood (12-0) vs. No. 6 Ely (12-0), 5 p.m. at St. Cloud State

Semifinal Saturday

No. 1 Grand Meadow (12-0) vs. No. 2 Waubun (11-0), 5 p.m. at St. Cloud State

Final Friday, Nov. 13

Semifinal winners, 10 a.m. at TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

Follow Tom Elliott on Twitter @sctimestom or call 259-3661.

Latest

More USA TODAY High School Sports