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Pierz rallies late for 20-14 victory over Jackson County Central in 3A semifinal

By MATT STEICHEN, Special to the Star Tribune, 11/16/19, 7:15PM CST


The Pioneers' Peter Schommer and Michael Leidenfrost connected on a 48-yard touchdown pass with 1:19 left to complete the comeback.

Pierz running back Michael Leidenfrost (26) scored the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter to put the Pioneers ahead for the first time. Photo: ANTHONY SOUFFLE • anthony.souffle@startribune.com

Heading into the Class 3A semifinals against fellow unbeaten Jackson County Central, Pierz coach Dan Saehr figured if his team had any advantage, it was its experience.

Pierz, state champs in 2015 and 2017, has reached the semifinals in each of the last six seasons.

“Experience is big. It’s something you can’t teach,” said Saehr, in his 20th year leading the Pioneers. “A lot of these kids were part of our team last year. When we get one of these games with two evenly matched teams and a game that’s going to come down to one or two possessions, we’re very confident in the kids we have out there.”

That experience helped the Pioneers stay composed Saturday as they overcame an early 14-point deficit to rally past the Huskies 20-14 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Michael Leidenfrost caught a 48-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Peter Schommer to give Pierz its first lead with 1:19 to go. Leidenfrost then made a leaping interception to seal the victory and send the Pioneers to the Prep Bowl.

Saehr credited offensive coordinator Dave Rocheleau with the play call that set up the go-ahead touchdown. The play put running back Matthias Algarin in motion, which left Leidenfrost in one-on-one coverage on the back side.

First report

Pierz quarterback Peter Schommer found Michael Leidenfrost for a 48-yard touchdown pass with 1:19 left to send the top-ranked Pioneers to their third Class 3A title game in five years.

The Pioneers, champs in 2015 and 2017, scored 20 unanswered points to rally for a 20-14 victory over second-ranked Jackson County Central on Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Running back Matthias Algarin’s 13-yard score inched Pierz (13-0) within 14-12 with 2:07 left in the third quarter. The Pioneers’ defense then came up with two critical stops that gave the ball back to its offense at its own 24 with 3:52 to go.

Jackson County Central (11-1) led just 14-6 at halftime after dominating time of possession and outgaining Pierz 232-96 in the first half.

The Huskies scored touchdowns on their first two drives.  Jackson County Central senior quarterback Rudy Voss capped off the first drive of the game with a 38-yard touchdown run. He then threw a short pass to Elijah Meium-Bratrud, who snuck out of the backfield and sprinted 60 yards to put the Huskies up 14-0.

They picked up three fourth downs during an 18-play drive that used 7½ minutes of the second quarter, but missed a 29-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the half.

Pierz managed just one first down on its first four possessions before Schommer lobbed a deep pass over the Jackson County Central defense to Blake Kowalczyk for a 60-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter.

Check back later for more on the game.

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