We venture north of the metro for this small-school showdown between Pierz, a town of about 1,400 people that's a 40-minute drive north of St. Cloud, and Paynesville, a town of similar size due west of St. Cloud.
Both teams reached their respective state tournament semifinals last season. Pierz, the top seed in the Class 3A tournament, fell 25-20 to eventual champion Rochester Lourdes. Paynesville, the No. 5 seed in Class 2A, lost 40-6 to eventual champion Caledonia.
The state tournament trip was the sixth straight and 15th overall for Pierz, champion in 2004 (Class 2A) and 2015 and 2017 (both in Class 3A). Paynesville doesn’t have quite the same pedigree … yet. Two of the Bulldogs’ four state tournament appearances have come in the last two years.
Both teams were dominant in their season openers. Pierz (1-0) blasted Foley 52-0 as Blake Kowalcyk rushed for two first-quarter touchdowns and caught a 7-yard scoring pass from Pioneers quarterback Peter Schommer in the second quarter.