MINNEAPOLIS - It prolonged the Pierz season one extra frame, but Friday's final drive of the Class 2A state semifinal game exhibited everything that made the Pioneers' season one to remember.
Down 22-14 and facing 80 long Metrodome yards with 9:25 remaining, Pierz went on a march.
Pierz, a team that wasn't supposed to be in the top two of Central Minnesota Conference or make it through the tough Section 6 bracket, started with a two-yard pass from Scott Janson to Alex Leach.
Those two players accounted for all 22 Pierz points.
An incomplete pass set up third and eight. Janson hit Tyler Monson for 12 yards to move the chains.
Pioneers Alex Huls (left) and Zach Doroff walked off the field Friday night after losing the Class 2A semifinal game 29-22 to Luverne at the Metrodome. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"At the beginning of the season people were saying we were going to have a down year," said Janson. "I just felt that our team wants it and we're going to come out and play our hearts out every game, which we did."
With a fresh set of downs, Leach rushed for two yards. Another incomplete pass set up another third and eight. This time Janson hit Matt Woitalla for 10 yards and another Pierz first down.
Woitalla and Leach led Pierz in rushing with 61 yards each.
Aaron Schmidtbauer then rushed three straight times for 16 yards. Leach added a five-yard run and Schmidtbauer rushed one more time for a yard,
That set up the first of two fourth downs.
This time it was fourth and 1 at the Luverne 32.
A three-yard run by Leach kept Pierz alive.
"These kids never quit and that's a credit to them," said Pierz head coach Leo Pohlkamp. "We had to score the touchdown and get the two-point conversion to get into overtime and we did that. It's just unfortunate that it ends this way."
Pierz running back Aaron Schmidtbauer (34) rushed upfield against the Luverne Cardinals in their Class 2A semifinal game at the Metrodome Friday night. The Pioneers lost 29-22 in overtime.
Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Two straight incomplete passes and a penalty set up third and 15. Janson found Corey Egan for a 21-yard completion and another first down.
"It was just amazing," said Janson. "Out there everything is going on and Chad Lanners just played an awesome game. I don't know how many balls he caught all year because Corey and Mark (Kahl) have been our go-to guys all year, but he stepped it up and caught balls. Corey caught fades and Monson caught a ball. Everybody contributed. The line blocked and we just executed."
Lanners, didn't catch a ball on the final drive but finished with four receptions for 62 yards.
"It was just crazy," said Lanners about the final drive. "We just kept pulling something out of nowhere. It was nuts."
A five-yard loss, a pass completion for no gain and an incomplete pass set up fourth and 15 on the Luverne 18.
This time Janson found Leach through the air for a 16-yard pass. On the next play Leach scored.
"The seniors just kept pushing," said Lanners. "They worked hard and that made all of us work hard. It's the biggest reason why we went as far as we did. There was just instant confidence when we went out for that final drive."
Mark Kahl partially tore his medial collateral ligament, not his meniscus.
Four different players were needed to fill in for the do-everything senior.
Andy Hernandez handled the extra point kicks and was 2-for-2. Tyler Monson kicked off.
Dylan Peterson, Scott Bednar and Robert Froalich rotated in at defensive tackle, where Kahl is normally stationed on defense. They combined for four tackles.
Brad Kapsner played tight end.
"We missed Mark quite a bit," said Janson. "Brad prepared all week and played his hardest, but Mark was that kind of player when we needed something down the middle, a big play or block, he was one heck of a tight end."
Jeremy Millsop may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
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