MINNEAPOLIS - Scott Janson helped get his team in position to win, then took responsibility when it didn't.
The senior quarterback for the Pierz Pioneers led a 20-play, 80-yard drive that ate up 7:01 of the fourth quarter and sent Friday's state Class 2A semifinal game into overtime at the Metrodome.
But, in overtime, Janson threw an interception to end the game and give the Luverne Cardinals a 29-22 victory.
Cardinals quarterback Jeremy Hoff threw a second-half touchdown pass, ran in the go-ahead, fourth-quarter touchdown and scored the eventual game-winner in overtime from 3-yards out.
That forced Pierz to answer.
Pierz Pioneer Alex Leach (left) was tackled by a Luverne defender in their Class 2A semifinal game at the Metrodome Friday night. Even though Leach scored two touchdowns, Pierz lost the game in overtime to Luverne 29-22. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
On Pierz's second play in the extra frame Janson rolled right. He saw receiver Tyler Monson open and threw. The Cardinals' Zach Olson stepped in front of the pass and picked it off, ending Pierz's season.
"It was play action to try and get everyone flowing one way and we brought a tight end across the field," said Janson. "I was scrambling and Monson was open. I should have gotten him the ball quicker, but I didn't get my shoulders turned and I threw it behind him. The guy made a nice play."
Down 22-14 with 9:25 remaining in the fourth quarter, Pierz rattled off its tying drive, capped by Alex Leach's two-yard touchdown run to push Pierz to within two.
That set up the game-tying, two-point conversion. After a timeout, Janson kept the snap and snuck in for the tie.
"We ran that play once this year and I fumbled it," said Janson. "But coach told me that I was going to get the ball and that's what I want. I wanted the ball in my hands and it worked out."
Luverne 29, Pierz 22 (OT)
The key: Luverne's Jeremy Hoff threw a touchdown pass and ran for two more, including the game-winner in overtime, to lead the Cardinals
Record: Prz 11-2, Luv 12-1
Next: Luverne vs. Caledonia in Class 2A state championship 4 p.m. Friday at the Metrodome in Minneapolis
The drive featured five third downs, which Pierz converted three times. That set up two fourth downs and Pierz prevailed on both.
Janson was 6-for-10 for 61 yards on the final drive, including a 16-yard pass to Leach on fourth and 15 that set up the running back's touchdown run.
"I was confident," said Janson. "I've been confident about this team all year. You know nobody is a stud. Nobody is D-I. We just have 22 players that play their hearts out. I went out there and I looked at all those guys and I just said, 'I don't want this to be our last week of football.'"
The Cardinals opened the second half with the first touchdown scored against Pierz in the third quarter
Hoff hit senior wideout Weston Sawtelle for a 7-yard scoring pass at 10:03.
On Luverne's next possession it constructed a 15-play, 62-yard drive that resulted in a Hoff 3-yard touchdown run that gave the Cardinals the first lead of the game.
It was also the first time Pierz trailed in five playoff games.
On Luverne's extra-point attempt, a poor snap forced Hoff to pass to Brent Dinger in the end zone for a two-point conversion and a 22-14 lead.
"That quarterback, he had a nice arm and he could run around," said Pierz's head coach Leo Pohlkamp. "We came in knowing he was going to be a hard player to contain and he just outran our containment a couple of times. He was a good athlete."
Janson's 1-yard dive with 45 seconds remaining in the first half handed Pierz a 14-7 halftime advantage. It was his fourth touchdown run in the past three games and he said it gave him confidence for his two-point run in the fourth quarter.
Corey Egan ended the half with his 10th interception of the season.
The Pioneers scored first on Leach's 16-yard touchdown burst in the first quarter.
Pierz's defense then stonewalled the Cardinals on their ensuing drive on fourth and goal at the Pierz 2.
But, on Pierz's next punt, Zach Olson returned the kick 43 yards to the end zone to tie the game at 7 in the second quarter.
Luverne 0 7 7 8 7 - 29
Pierz 7 7 0 8 0 - 22
Prz-Alex Leach 16 run (Andy Hernandez kick) 3:16
L-Zach Olson 43
(Sebastian Soares Sousa kick) 8:15
Prz-Scott Janson 1 run (Hernandez kick) :45
L-Weston Sawtelle 7 pass from Jeremy Hoff (Soares Sousa kick) 10:03
L-Hoff 3 run (Brent Dinger pass from Hoff) 9:25
Prz-Leach run (Janson run) 2:24
L-Jeremy Hoff 2 run (Soares Sousa kick)
First downs: Prz 14, Luv 19
Rushes-yards: Prz 42-140, Luv 44-179
Prz 14-23-1-194, Luv 7-10-1-96
Total offense: Prz 334, Luv 275
Fumbles-lost: Prz 1-1, Luv 2-0
Penalties-yards lost: Prz 2-10, Luv 0-0
Possession time: Prz 26:12, Luv 21:48
Third-down conversions: Prz 5-12, Luv 7-12
Red-zone scores-chances: Prz 4-5, Luv 1-2
Rushing: Prz-Matt Woitalla 11-61, Alex Leach 16-62, Aaron Schmidtbauer 8-36, Scott Janson 4-(-22), Jimmy Hiemenz 2-4; Luv-Phillip Paquette 17-97, Mitch Bauman 10-37, Jeremy Hoff 12-46, Zach Olson 4-8
Passing: Prz-Janson 14-22-194; Luv-Hoff 7-10-96
Receiving: Prz-Corey Egan 2-50 , Chad Lanners 4-62, Schmidtbauer 1-16, Leach 5-44, Tyler Monson 1-12, Woitalla 1-10: Luv-Weston Sawtelle 2-58, Zack Clark 1-5, Bauman 1-11, Jeremy Stickling 1-8, Paquette 2-14
Jeremy Millsop may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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