In the brief history of the Pizza Bowl, the matchup between Princeton and Milaca under the Friday night lights, there’s always been hype into the contest between the two schools separated by less than 20 miles.
This year, as both teams sit at 3-0 and ranked amongst the top-10 of each of their respective classes, there may be even more anticipation into the fourth annual Pizza Bowl.
Before beginning preparation for the battle for the paddle, both Princeton and Milaca stormed past their opponents last Friday, setting the stage for Pizza Bowl IV. The Tigers clawed past Little Falls 34-0 on the road while the Wolves nipped Foley by a 50-14 margin on the Falcons’ field.
Wolves run past Foley
With the trip to Foley scheduled for Milaca on Sept. 9, a quick start was going to be key to the contest against the Falcons.
The Wolves were able to do just that, said Wolves head coach Craig Talberg.
“Our offense came out right away and took it down and scored,” he said.
Senior running back Jack Schoenborn’s 10-yard run on the opening possession of the game gave the Wolves the early 8-0 lead. After a stop on the first possession by Milaca defense, another Schoenborn score pushed the team ahead 14-0 with 4:51 to go in the opening quarter.
Though Foley answered to make it 14-6, the Wolves started attacking through the air. Sparked by big passing plays by senior quarterback Dylan Greninger to Corbin Sams, Trace Hasz and Peyton Hunt, Milaca piled up 23 unanswered points in the frame to take a 37-6 halftime lead.
Greninger completed passes to the trio of receivers for 31, 31, 48 and 76 yards in the second quarter alone, igniting the team.
Effective passing such as the team demonstrated against the Falcons is going to open up the opportunity for more scoring chances, said Schoenborn.
“Teams now are going to try and shut down our run game but if we attack them through the air they won’t know what will hit them,” he said.
A scoreless third quarter pushed the teams to the final frame, where Foley did inch closer, but two more Milaca touchdowns ended the game with a 36-point margin of victory for the Wolves.
The air attack was nearly unstoppable for the Wolves with Greninger missing just one of his seven passing attempts, totaling 236 yards and one score. Hasz led the team with three catches for 124 yards while Sams added two catches for 36 yards and a score. Hunt had one catch for 76 yards, along with two interceptions on the night, defensively.
Milaca’s ground game was paced by Schoenborn, who had 12 carries for 105 yards and a score. Logan Bauer, Bryce Mehrwerth, Jack Patnode and Clay Anderson all scored a rushing touchdown on the night.
“It was a good team effort,” said Talberg.
Tigers lock down
As for the Tigers match up against Little Falls, both sides of the ball played well in the 34-0 dismantling of the Flyers.
“It was nice to see it all come together, from game to game we continue grow and it’s fun to be a part of that,” said Tigers head coach Ryan Fay.
Princeton got a monster performance from senior quarterback Cooper Drews, who accounted for four passing touchdown and a rushing score to propel the offense.
Drews attributed the success to the offensive line. “The guys up front also gave me a lot of time. It all starts with them,” he said.
Getting on the board with a Drews passing touchdown to senior wide out Jonah Hviding from 28 yards out for the 6-0 first quarter lead. That score held to the second quarter.
Princeton’s offense added to the lead in the second half thanks to a strike to Eli Gibbs for a passing touchdown while Drews punched into the end zone on the ground to make it 21-0.
While the offense started to figure out the Flyer defense, the Tigers defense was still stifling Little Falls. As the lead ballooned to 34 points, Princeton powered to the shutout victory.
“It was nice to see the defense step up and come together there,” said Fay on the effort.
Ben Ostendorf starred for the defensive unit, leading the team in tackles with 4.5 while intercepting a pass. Bailey Thiel added an interception of his own on the night.
Offensively, Drews found Hviding open all night long as the pair combined for seven completions for 112 yards and three touchdowns. Drews finished the night 13 out of 19 for 158 yards and the four passing scores.
Senior running back Ethan Ballweber led the team in rushing yards with 103 yards on 11 carries.
Pizza Bowl Preview
Now up next for both teams is the battle for the paddle as the winner on Friday night will walk away with the Pizza Peel Trophy.
In the three-year history of Princeton and Milaca competing for the paddle, the Tigers have won all three games in tight fashion, as the margin of victory for the three contests is just 10 points combined.
Schoenborn believes this is the year that contest flips into favor of the Wolves, as a large group of the Milaca seniors will head the charge.
“What makes this year different is that we have been teammates ever since 4th grade. We hold each other accountable. We push each other every day to get better, in the film room, weight room and practice field,” he said.
If the Wolves hope to win, they need to find a way to slow down Drews and the Princeton offense, said Talberg.
“He’s going to be the best quarterback we will face all year. It’s going to be a true test for our defense this week.”
On the other side, if Princeton hopes to retain the paddle, it will need to be stout upfront to limit the Milaca ground game.
“They have a pretty good running game, so a key for us is to stop that,” said Drews.
Fay agreed. “The triple option; that’s always hard to stop if a team can run it successfully and they shown they can,” he said.
Compared to years past, the energy around the game is even greater than those other Pizza Bowls, said Schoenborn. “This game is going to be on a whole other level. I am very excited and the fans are very pumped for Friday as they should be,” he said.
Building up to the game on Friday night at Claffy Field, both teams are eager to battle for the paddle and expect a good, hard fought contest.
“I expect it to be a great football game on Friday night,” said Talberg.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the match between Princeton and Milaca on the gridiron.