With the joy of a successful football season also comes the hassle.
Just ask Pierz Pioneers head coach Leo Pohlkamp -- if you're lucky enough to catch him with a spare moment.
Since his Pioneers defeated Waterville-Elysian-Morristown 20-6 Friday in the Class 2A state semifinals at the Metrodome, Pohlkamp has been on the phone, in front of a camera or talking to reporters for much of this week.
"When I picked up my phone and looked at my messages I knew one was you because it's Tuesday morning," said Pohlkamp. "But I had 15 to 20 other ones, too. The Alexandria TV station came out. The St. Cloud Times was out taking photos and Tom Elliott (Times assistant sports editor) was pulling kids aside to interview them.
"You like to see that. You see people at the Pioneers game that probably haven't been there in 10 years. It's kind of neat."
Pohlkamp also likes all the banners around town, proclaiming good wishes to Pierz as it heads to the Prep Bowl to play Eden Valley-Watkins for the Class 2A state championship 1:15 p.m. Friday. He said the police and fire departments have escorted them out of town and probably will do so again Friday.
The coach has led Pierz to three state tournaments in his 19-year tenure. Last year Pierz advanced to the state semifinals for the first time. This year the Pioneers are playing in the finals.
Pohlkamp has told his players to enjoy the moment, but he's also taken precautions to make sure they're focused for the game.
"This week, probably more so than ever, I just told the kids to enjoy it," said Pohlkamp. "I told them to get excited, but remain focused. There are a lot of distractions out there and I just told the kids to stay focused.
"We're taking two days and practicing down in Foley. If we stay here, you get people walking through the gym and wanting to watch practice. It will be empty at Foley."
The Pierz coaching staff has also stressed to the team to watch what they say in this growing storm of attention. Pohlkamp said, for the most part, the players have handled everything well.
What: The Pierz Pioneers are playing in their first State Class 2A football final 1:15 p.m. Friday at the Metrodome.
Coming: Friday's sports section will feature a preview of Friday's Class 2A championship between Pierz and Eden Valley-Watkins
While Pohlkamp enjoys seeing a sea of red in the Metrodome stands, someone who isn't seeing hardly anyone is Pierz wrestling coach Mark Jensen. Nearly every member of Jensen's wrestling team plays football.
Pierz has already had to bow out of the Foley Duals wrestling meet Nov. 27.
But Jensen isn't one to complain about his athletes having success. Of the 14 wrestlers that helped Pierz win the Class 1A state title last winter, seven are playing football and at least three others played vital roles in the Pioneers' wrestling season.
Pohlkamp believes that wrestling success carried over to the football season.
"They want to win a state title in football too," said Pohlkamp. "They're ranked No. 1 in wrestling again. That experience last year has got to help. Those kids are competitors. You look at Kyle Girtz and Nathan Britz and they are so focused and aggressive. They're good tacklers and I think that goes hand-in-hand with wrestling.
"They have that toughness."
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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