The Pierz Pioneers continued its storied team history with a ninth appearance in a row in the Section 6AAA football championship game, one of the best winning streaks in the Midwest region high school football for their respective conference.
The Pierz Pioneers lost in a heartbreaker to New London-Spicer, Nov. 5, in the final 12 seconds of the game, 28-24.
The Pierz Pioneers came in as the number two seed with an overall record of 7-3, and New London-Spicer Wildcats the number four seed, with an overall record of 5-5 on the season.
The game was moved to a neutral site at St. Cloud Tech High School on a chilly, misty and windy Friday night.
The stage was set for the Pierz football program and why they belong there, backed by great coaching and an offense that can put up numbers, this had all the makings of a shoot-out waiting to happen.
On the other side of the ball was the New London-Spicer Wildcats, who lost their last four games in a row in the regular season.
The Wildcats have since rattled off two wins consecutively in the playoffs against Melrose (42-6) and #1 seeded and projected playoff favorite Albany (14-2).
The game was a back and forth affair sparking a roller coaster of emotions from both sides from high highs to low lows. Both teams left it all out on the field.
The Pierz defense opened things up with a 31-yard run back for a touchdown.
This play came at the very start of the second quarter when New London-Spicer quarterback Kyle Doty threw a backward lateral pass to Brycen Christensen, who dropped the ball and then gave up on the play entirely thinking it was a dead ball.
Defender Kirby Fisher had the awareness that it was still a live ball and with no man in sight and Christenson seemingly out of the play with his helmet unsecured, Fisher picked it up and ran it all the way back for a 31-yard touchdown.
Christensen could be seen pacing back and forth on the sideline, visibly upset with himself for letting his team down.
It was looking like he was going to end up being the goat, but came back and spoiled the party for the Pioneers when it counted most.
Wildcats running back Mason Delzer busted a one-yard touchdown run to tie the score.
Pierz answered in the third quarter on a Zach Jones 47-yard catch and run touchdown on a third and long to give the Pioneers the lead.
Fisher came back and scored an offensive four-yard touchdown run to give the Pioneers a 21-7 lead late in the third.
Linus Heidemann added the extra point for his third extra point in a row, and also added a big time field goal.
New London-Spicer added a running score to make it a 24-14 lead.
The Pioneers looked poised to come away with the victory as they were up by 10 late in the game with about five minutes left to play.
The Wildcats added a 45-yard pass completion to Peyton Coahran for a New London-Spicer touchdown to make it a 24-21 game with just under five to play.
In the Pioneers’ final possession, they were forced into another third and long situation.
On a third and seven, Jones took a run down the sideline for about a four yard gain, the Wildcats were trying to shove him out of bounds but Jones did a nice job at not stepping on the line before collapsing.
Pierz was then forced to punt it away and rely on its defense for one final stand with about a minute left.
New London-Spicer started to air it out with about 45 seconds left needing to at least get into field goal range.
The Wildcats completed a 34-yard yard pass to get them down to the 28-yard line of Pierz.
In the final play of the Wildcats drive, quarterback Doty aired a jump ball out to Christensen who caught the ball in tight double coverage over the head and away from two Pioneer defenders that were positioned right in Christensen’s face.
Christensen leaped high in the air and came down with the ball and toe dragged in the back of the endzone just ahead of the back end pylon for the Wildcats touchdown.
New London-Spicer added the extra point to make it a four point lead 28-24, eliminating a chance for the big leg of Heidemann to be used in a long field goal situation.
With 9.5 seconds left to play and only one time-out left, Pierz needed a miracle.
It was hail Mary and backward lateral time for the Pioneers.
Pierz missed on the first pass attempt which fell incomplete with six seconds left to go.
The final play of the season was a quick pass to Mitch Smude as time expired and no time-outs left for Pierz.
The Wildcats met Smude as he caught the pass and gang tackled him to the ground, ending the Pioneers’ season and punching the Wildcats’ ticket to the state championship game.
Pierz finished with an overall record of 7-5 and a conference record of 4-1.
Individual awards for the Pioneers were given to the 2021 first team All-District voted-in players.
Senior Zach Jones at defensive end and tight end. Senior Ben Virnig at stand-up defensive end and tight end.
Senior Trevor Radunz at outside backer and running back. Sophomore Reese Young at running back and inside backer, and junior Ian Oberfeld at defensive tackle and offensive tackle.
2021 All-District Honorable Mentions for Pierz include senior defensive back and quarterback Andy Winscher, junior outside backer and running back Jacob LeBlanc, junior defensive back and running back Kirby Fischer, and senior defensive tackle and offensive guard Lance Otremba.
Pioneer Zach Jones was named the 2021 specialist of the year, teammate Trevor Radunz named the 2021 linebacker of the year, and teammate Linus Heidemann was named the 2021 Kicker of the Year by the league.