Nathan Athman won’t forget his senior homecoming.
The burly fullback and defensive tackle for the Pierz Pioneers enjoyed career highs in rushing attempts, rushing yards and touchdowns to help Pierz down the Rockford Rockets 43-26 Oct. 4.
The two-year starting fullback carried the ball 28 times for 222 yards to help Pierz improve to 4-2.
“Right away they handed the ball off and I was able to get 20 or 25 yards on my first carry,” said Athman. “We went right down the field and I was able to go in for the touchdown. After that, we tried some other plays. We tried throwing the ball a little and ran some counter plays with some of the other backs. But then we went back to me and I just kept getting 5 or 6 yards a carry. I had a few other runs were I got a few more yards.
“We just started pounding it down the field. We weren’t expecting to get that kind of yards on a dive play.”
Athman called it the most fun game he’s played in and one that he will always remember. He also credited his offensive line for making it easier than one would think.
“Usually I never get more than 15 carries a game so to even have 20 or 25 it was fun,” Athman said. “The adrenaline was pumping so I just kept driving and kept going.
“Once I broke through the line, I was just looking for daylight. I was looking for open field, somewhere there wasn’t any defenders. I’m not the smallest kid so it’s a little hard for me to put a move on people. If anything I just tried to stiff-arm them or run them over.”
Athman scored the game’s first touchdown from 6 yards out. His next touchdown covered 26 yards and he finished off the first half with a 2-yard run in helping the Pioneers to a 20-13 edge at the break.
He opened the second half with a 1-yard run. He busted off a 50-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter and capped off his night with a one-yard plunge for the Pierz victory.
“It was our homecoming and he was one of the royalty candidates so he made some memories that will last a lifetime,” Pierz head coach Leo Pohlkamp said. “He was running behind a senior line, but he broke quite a few tackles, too.
There was one run that we thought about posting to “YouTube.” He broke through the line of scrimmage and was pushed down, but he was able to spin off the tackle, then break a few more and then scored the touchdown. It was a heck of a run.”
Pohlkamp said Rockford’s defense was focused on taking away Pierz’s off-tackle running attack with fellow senior Tyler Millner. So it was a heavy dose of straight dives for the 6-foot-1, 220-pound fullback.
“He’s just a load to bring down,” Pohlkamp said. “It was nice to see him have a game like that because he’s a senior and one of our captains. He’s a good student, a good role model for the younger kids. He’s just a good kid.”
Athman has rushed for 521 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season. He’s averaging 7.8 yards per carry.
“I got a little over 500 yards last year so I wanted to get at least that much and then get even more yards than I did last year,” said Athman. “This year my mindset was different. It’s my last year and I wanted to do good. I wanted to have people remember me. Maybe not our opponents, but my teammates and the younger players. I want them to remember me as a good player.”
Other notable performances:
Cross Country: Tony Fitzer, Pequot Lakes, won the Jimmy Machacek Invite in 17:53.
Will Goodwin, Crosby-Ironton, won the Ranger Invite in 17:10.
Football: Daniel Hudrlik, Crosby-Ironton, rushed for 100 yards and caught two passes for 53 yards.
Nick Carlson, Wadena-Deer Creek, rushed for 208 yards and a touchdown against Long Prairie-Grey Eagle.
Jalen Wuchko, Little Falls, rushed for 141 yards and a touchdown against Foley.
Zach Struss, Pine River-Backus, threw for 158 yards and a touchdown and ran in another score against Frazee.
Dezmond Berndt, Pillager, rushed for 203 yards and two touchdowns against Walker-Hackensack-Akeley.
Dan Bender, Aitkin, finished with three rushing touchdowns against Ogilvie.