His given name is Christian Even.
Friends of the 5-foot-10, 165-pound tailback and safety call him "Bud."
The Brainerd Dispatch sports department calls the Pierz Pioneers speedy threat the area's football player of the year.
While the Pioneers personified a team on its way to the Class 2A Prep Bowl title, it was Even who electrified a devoted sea of red Pierz fans. At the same time he kept opposing coaches mystified on how to stop the lightning quick running back.
"The only word I can think of for this season is perfect," said Even. "We did what everyone looks forward to doing."
It took Even, who transferred from Little Falls, a while to get used to Pioneers football terminology. Pierz runs a number of different offenses, including split back, pro and deuce sets and trips. Because of that, Warren Gall got most of the carries early in the season.
"At first we ran Christian more outside," said Pierz coach Leo Pohlkamp. "At some point, I think it was around the fourth game, we told Christian that in order to prevent teams from knowing what we were going to be doing, we would have to run him off tackle and inside more. He said he was fine with that.
"From that point on he took any snap and that made us a much better offense. He became the complete back halfway through the season."
Teamed with Gall, Preston Loidolt and Nick Gruber, Pierz rushed for 4,037 yards and 55 touchdowns. Pierz averaged 6.8 yards per carry. The double threat of Even and Gall allowed the Pioneers to run off 12 straight victories. But it wasn't until Even learned how to run in the Pioneers' offense that things started to explode.
"The first time he got the ball he ran as fast as he could to the sideline, then tried to turn the corner," said Pohlkamp. "When you play good teams, the corners know to force everything inside to where the tacklers are so that wasn't going to work.
Dispatch All-Area Player of the Year
Team: Pierz Pioneers
Position: Halfback, safety
Rushing stats: 1,777 rushing yards, 23 rushing touchdowns, 8.2 yards per carry
Receiving stats: 323 receiving yards, 11 receptions, 3 touchdowns
Defensive stats: Six interceptions, seven passes defensed, 55 tackles
"We like to pull our guards and tackles, but Christian was running in front of them. We needed to slow him down just a bit to get the blockers in front. We told him that was the ticket to the end zone.
"My assistant coach, Rick Sczublewski, said it best. 'He came over an athlete and he turned out to be a good football player.'"
Pohlkamp had other quotes, too, like, "Pierz was a good team and Even made them a very good team." It was just the fact Even was another weapon in the Pierz arsenal.
Because of his big-play ability and speed, Even was the team's most dangerous threat.
Even credits the offensive line for making things easy for him.
Brandon Grittner, Lenny Anderson, Matt Mrnak, Nathan Britz and Kyle Girtz paved holes that led to Even's 1,777 rushing yards.
"Our line was the hardest-working line I've ever been with," said Even. "It's the reason for my success and Warren's success. They're the biggest reason we did what we did this year."
In the Pioneers' three Section 8 games, Even rushed for 364 yards and four touchdowns on 45 carries. In three state playoff games he rushed for 397 yards and seven touchdowns on 80 carries.
Even is undecided about where he plans to go to college, but he will play football.
"Football is my life," he said. "It's what I revolve around. Without it I would be lost. No matter where I go I'm going to play football. I'm definitely going to play in college."
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
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