Oct. 1, the Pierz Pioneers defeated 4-0 and second-ranked Holdingford 45-3.
Oct. 20, the 9-2 Pioneers beat 7-0 and third-ranked Eden Valley-Watkins 35-28.
Oct. 30, third-ranked Pierz defeated 8-0 and fourth-ranked Hawley 27-21.
Pierz defended its Central Minnesota Conference and Section 8, Class 2A titles and hopes to return to the Metrodome for the Class 2A state semifinals.
But it's one game at a time and that next game is the state quarterfinals against Section 7 champion Esko 7 p.m. Friday at Pierz.
"There are three championships during the season," said Pierz coach Leo Pohlkamp. "There's the conference championship, section championship and state. We have two. Now we have to give all we've got to get three."
Pierz Pioneers vs. Esko Eskomos
What: Class 2A state football quarterfinals
Where: Pierz, 7 p.m. Friday
The 9-0 and second-ranked Esko Eskomos have something to prove in their third straight state quarterfinal. Last year Pierz eliminated Esko 58-32.
"We have 16 returning letterwinners and a good group of kids," said Esko coach Bill Hudspith. "Most of the kids that are seniors have been to state three times.
"I think Pierz has a lot of people back, too. It should be a good game. It was a goal to get to state for a third time. The kids worked hard and now they're here. It will be a good ballgame and we'll try to slow them down a little bit."
Two Pioneers who haven't been slowed this season are Christian Even and Warren Gall. The Pierz backs both have more than 1,400 rushing yards.
"Pierz looks like a similar team from last year," Hudspith said. "They have a seasoned group of kids and it looks like they're very tough. I don't think they have a dominant back like (Craig) Luberts, but (Even) is a pretty good athlete.
"You have to stop their big plays. I don't like (Even) getting outside. He has a couple of extra gears we don't have. We'll try to take away some things, disguise some coverages and try to get a couple of breaks."
Pohlkamp said Esko is a better team than last year with speed and quickness.
"Their senior quarterback was hurt earlier in the year and their junior quarterback is starting to come on," said Pohlkamp. "He's got a nice arm, but they want to run the ball.
"But we can run the ball, too. It's two good offenses and whichever team plays the best defense is going to win."
Pierz has outscored opponents 37.4 to 18.3. Three times it has held opponents to eight points or less. Esko has outscored opponents 37.1 to 10.6.
"They run a 4-3 defense, which is the same as the one they ran last year against us," said Pohlkamp. "I like that. I hate to see some unorthodox defense doing some goofy stuff. That's what Hawley tried doing and you can't give your linemen a key. As a coach you can't tell your players what to do."
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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