PIERZ -- It was Spirit Day on Thursday at Pierz Healy High School, a time when students and teachers wore red and black in support of the football team as they head to the state semifinals Saturday in Minneapolis.
Pierz students have a right to be proud of their football team. This will be the first time in the school's history that the Pierz Pioneers have made it this far in the state football tournament.
But step into the streets of the small farming community and you'll find support for the team reaches beyond the high school doors.
"Good Luck at State" signs are posted in front of several homes and businesses in Pierz, messages of encouragement for their hometown boys as they head to the Metrodome Saturday to take on the Breck Mustangs.
There's no question the Mustangs are going to be a tough team to beat. A recent Star Tribune story about the Mustangs football team was photocopied and taped on the walls throughout the high school to remind students of what they're up against Saturday.
Pierz Healy High School counselor Connie Moe handed out homecoming hankies at the school Thursday for students to use at Saturday's game.
A group of Pierz residents, including a few football parents, gathered down at Patrick's Bar and Grill a few times to watch Mustangs' games on videotape this week, to study their plays and analyze their strengths and weaknesses.
Saturday's game has been a favorite topic at Red's Auto and Bait in Pierz. Every morning before 8 a.m., the regulars stop in to chat and drink coffee before they head to work.
"It's between deer hunting and Pierz football. Those are two topics of discussion," Judy Riley said with a laugh as she worked Thursday at Red's. "They're all excited. It's going to be a tough game but they can pull it off."
Many of the football players have stopped into the convenience store a few times in recent weeks while on their way to Foley High School to practice in the school's fieldhouse. Customers sometimes cheer them on or wish them the best, said Riley. Several people in town said they know community members who postponed or canceled their deer hunting trips last weekend during the state quarterfinals and this weekend so they can watch the Pioneers play.
Pat Watercott, owner of Patrick's Bar and Grill, has organized a fan bus that will head down to the Metrodome Saturday. It likely will be filled with many parents, like himself. His son, Zach, is a senior and plays on the football team. For 10 years, Watercott has coached junior high football at Pierz, including most of the players on his son's winning team.
Dick Maurer (left) and Clint Kimman talked about the Pierz football team as they ate lunch at Patrick's Bar and Grill Thursday in Pierz. Kimman's son, Danny, is a senior and plays on the team.
"When they were seventh- and eighth-graders, I knew these kids were special," said Watercott with a smile. "It's such a fun team to follow."
At noon every Thursday, Thielen Meat Market delivers fresh bologna sausages for Bologna Days at Patrick's.
Bologna is a crowd favorite, and Patrick's is where Clint Kimman, whose son, Danny, plays on the football team, chose to eat lunch Thursday.
"All the Twin Cities stations are talking about Breck," said Kimman. "We're going to give them a good game."
"They're going to score points, but Pierz is going to score points, too," added Dick Maurer, who also ate lunch Thursday at Patrick's.
2 area teams at dome
Two area high school football teams will play Saturday at the Metrodome.
Verndale plays Stephen-Argyle at 8 a.m. in the Nine-Man state semifinals and Pierz will take on Breck at 1 p.m. in the Class 2A state semifinals in Minneapolis.
Maurer said he plans to go deer hunting Saturday with a hunting party in northern Minnesota, but plans to call friends watching the game at the Metrodome every half-hour or so to find out how the team is faring.
Bob Loidolt said he's been going to all the home football games, though he doesn't know anyone on the team.
"I just go to the games as a local guy, that's it," said Loidolt. "They've got some good talent."
Loidolt said he would be working and listening to Saturday's game on the radio, adding he probably would travel to the state finals if Pierz beats Breck Saturday.
Walk into any establishment in town and it is likely you'll either bump into someone who is related to a team player or people who have their own ideas on what coach Leo Pohlkamp should do Saturday.
"Yeah, we've got Monday morning quarterbacks all over town," Pohlkamp said with a good-natured laugh Thursday at the high school. "If they're not at the game, they'll be out deer hunting. ... It's exciting for the kids. It brings the school together."
The high school has two fan buses heading to the Metro-dome Saturday, said Principal Paul DeMorett. He said students have been talking about Saturday's game over and over again since last week.
And if anyone in town doesn't know who senior Craig Luberts is, well, they haven't been paying much attention. Luberts, the team's star running back, scored seven touchdowns and ran 298 yards against Esko last weekend.
"Craig Luberts is all the talk," confided one woman at Thielen Meat Market.
"It's nice to see a small school do well," said Lloyd Boeder, who worked Thursday at Hartmann's Hardware Hank. "They've done a good job, win or lose."
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