Pictured: Nate Rankin, #62, Jack Larson, #50 and Noah Danielson, #15, try to keep a Pierz runner from crossing the goal line in Friday’s loss to the Pioneers.
September 10 @ Minnewaska
Pierz 41 Minnewaska 0
The Minnewaska football team was in Pierz on Friday night to take on the always tough Pioneers. Pierz had won their opener by a 20-0 score over Holdingford.
Unlike week one of the season, the weather conditions were perfect, with warm temperatures and hardly a breath of wind.
Pierz had a very good return of the opening kickoff and set up shop on the Minnewaska 48 yard line. The Pioneers ran the ball 10 straight times, converting a pair of third downs, including a 3rd & 9 from the Lakers’ 19 yard line, on their way to an opening drive touchdown. The extra point was kicked through and Pierz had a lead after six minutes of play.
The Minnewaska offense struggled through the first half, gaining just four total yards until having some success just before halftime.
With just 1:27 remaining on the clock the Lakers moved the ball from their own 16 yard line all the way to the Pierz 25, mostly on the strength of a 26 yard completion from quarterback PJ Johnson to Jacob Blair. But with time running low a desperate pass by Johnson was picked off and the first half ended with the Lakers trailing, 28-0.
The second half was better for the Minnewaska defense. Chase Boelke recovered a Pioneer fumble to end the first drive of the second half. Pierz would score on their next two drives but punt on their final drive of the game late in the fourth quarter.
The Laker offense had one turnover and only 32 yards in the second half. An injury to starting running back Dalton Friedrichs late in the game didn’t help.
Head coach Jeremy Christensen gave his observations of the game. “Pierz again had a solid team that plays a very physical and disciplined brand of football. Our Lakers played well at times, but consistency is key, and we did not string enough quality plays together. All three phases of the game saw some bright spots throughout the night. There were times we were able to get the Pioneers into key third or fourth down situations, but just couldn’t seem to come up with the next big play to turn them over. We had a few nice drives on offense where we picked up some first downs, but then stalled out after a missed assignment or penalty. We were one or two sustained blocks away from busting a big kick return ourselves, but also lost lane integrity on punt coverage and gave up a big return. We are breaking in a lot of new faces to varsity football and we know we are going to have a learning curve, but we need to shorten that curve as much as possible in order to compete. Even in a 41-0 loss there are positives to take away and lessons to be learned. I thought Jacob Blair played the most physical game of his career. He is not the biggest body on the field, but he executed his assignments on both sides of the ball with a passion and intensity that we love to see as coaches. Some of our younger starters were baptized by fire with the hard nosed style of offense that Pierz runs. They learned just how fast and physical top quality varsity teams are, and what type of intensity and focus is needed to counter those forces.”
“We will regroup and refocus, and continue to learn from our mistakes,” added coach Christensen. “This week we are traveling to Melrose to face off against the Dutchmen. They are currently 0-2 after similar defeats at the hands of Paynesville and Rockford. Melrose returns a handful of major role players from last year’s team, including their quarterback, running back, and the District MVP Offensive Linemen. We expect an aggressive defense and a physical running game with an opportunistic passing attack. It should be a good match up.”
Minnewaska will regroup and try again on Friday night when they travel to Melrose. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m.