Jeremy Hoff might be the best athlete the Pierz Pioneers have seen all season.
That's according to Pierz head coach Leo Pohlkamp, who has been breaking down film searching for ways to contain the 6-foot, 180-pound senior for the Luverne Cardinals.
Pierz will get its chance 5:45 p.m. Friday in the Class 2A state semifinal football game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
"He wants to keep the ball," Pohlkamp said of Hoff. "We're telling our ends to not let him keep the ball, if at all possible. He likes to cut inside where the tackle would be. We need to make sure we take care of him first."
Hoff has rushed for 561 yards and nine touchdowns. He's also thrown for 867 yards and 11 TDs on 52-of-112 passing.
Pierz Pioneers running back Matt Woitalla (right) headed up the field after avoiding a tackle by a Moose Lake-Willow River player, who lost his helmet, in the Class 2A quarterfinals. Woitalla had 22 carries for 169 yards and a touchdown. Brainerd Dispatch/ Clint Wood » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Junior halfback Phillip Paquette leads the Cardinals' rushing attack with 1,120 yards and 10 touchdowns. Senior Mitch Bauman has added 485 yards and five scores.
"They have two main offensive sets," said Pohlkamp. "They'll line up in split backs and run the option, then they'll line up like Holdingford in a power I-formation and pound it off tackle along with an inside counter."
Hoff's main passing targets have been Weston Sawtelle (18 catches, 286 yards, two touchdowns) and Zack Clark (9, 262, 4).
The Cardinals (11-1) have outscored opponents 28.1 to 9.4 and have averaged 301.8 yards a game.
"They have some weapons on offense, but their defense is going to be a lot like us," Pohlkamp said. "They are very stingy."
Luverne owns a turnover ratio of plus-18, meaning it has forced 18 more turnovers than it has given up. The Cardinals have held opponents to just 210.7 yards a game.
Hoff, again, is a threat on defense. He has 18 career interceptions.
The Cardinals are returning to the state semifinals where they defeated Moose Lake-Willow River 33-27 last season.
Pierz eliminated ML-WR in last week's state quarterfinals 44-14.
Luverne lost to Triton in last year's Prep Bowl 70-21. The Cardinals avenged that loss, 10-7, in this year's quarterfinals.
"You hope that they're happy with just getting their revenge with Triton," said Pohlkamp. "But with a whole week of practice that shouldn't be the case. They're a good, hungry team."
Pierz vs. Luverne
What: Class 2A statefootball semifinals
When: 5:45 p.m. Friday
Where: Metrodome, Minneapolis
At stake: A trip to the Class 2A Prep Bowl
Records: Pierz 11-1, Luv 10-1
Pierz once again used a balanced offense and dominating defense to return to its fourth state semifinal in five years.
The Pioneers held ML-WR to just 162 yards rushing and 235 total yards. Pierz gained 469.
Matt Woitalla has rushed for 1,222 yards and 10 touchdowns and Alex Leach has 849 yards and six scores.
Scott Janson has thrown for 1,234 yards and nine touchdowns.
Pierz has outscored opponents 31.7 to 7.2 and outgained them 361.3 to 176.
One problem will be the loss of top receiver, kicker and defensive end Mark Kahl. While he didn't tear an anterior cruciate ligament, which was initially thought, he did hurt his meniscus and will not be available for the rest of the football season.
Luverne head coach Todd Oye did not return phone calls left by the Dispatch.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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