WAHOO — Perhaps the key to stopping Pierce’s rushing game would be to hand out candy to the Bluejays’ offensive line and take the running backs out to dinner. Do anything to get them out of their angry mood.
The second-ranked Bluejays were evidently in a foul mood Tuesday night during a dominating 35-7 win over No. 5 Wahoo in the quarterfinal round of the Class C-1 state football playoffs.
For Pierce coach Mark Brahmer, playing angry is exactly what he wants from his squad.
“I’ve got a group that’s kind of nasty,” Brahmer said. “They like to grind the football and play hard. We’re fortunate that we have three backs who are really strong kids, fast kids and they run a little surly, they run a little angry.”
How angry? The Bluejays (10-1) ran over, around and through Wahoo’s defense for 412 yards on 54 carries, an average of 7.6 yards per rush. Nate Meier and Trent Spieker each gained 115 yards. Dillon Ronspies added 97 yards. Spieker sprinted 81 yards for a touchdown on Pierce’s first play from scrimmage in the final period. Ronspies rambled 72 yards on the first play of the Bluejays’ second possession of the fourth quarter.
The attitude on offense carried over to the Bluejays’ defense.
Tyler Kavan, the Warriors’ go-to running back who rushed for more than 2,000 yards in 10 previous games, was held to 30 yards on 13 carries. Wahoo (9-2) finished the game with 142 total yards as its offense failed to score for the first time this season.
“To be able to hold Kavan, who is probably one of the most talented backs in the state in any class, under wraps, our defense did a tremendous job,” Brahmer said. “We knew at any time if the hole was cluttered he was going to bounce or cut back, so we had to play disciplined on defense. We always talk about defense being an 11-man puzzle and you have to fit your piece. We did that tonight.”
The Warriors got a defensive boost from Kavan to answer Pierce’s first score, a 1-yard run by Meier with 1:34 left in the first period. Kavan blocked a Pierce punt on the Bluejays’ 13-yard line, then recovered the football in the end zone.
Other than Kavan’s defensive score, however, there were few highlights for the Warriors.
“They didn’t let us get into any flow of any sorts on offense,” Wahoo coach Chad Fox said. “They made some big plays on third down and we weren’t able to convert. We had them in some third-and-fives, a third-and-30, and we made some mistakes. They stepped up and made bigger plays. They were the better team and it’s sometimes hard to say that and realize that, but that’s just the way it is.”
Pierce put together two scoring drives of nine plays each in the first half, then added a 15-play scoring drive that used up the first 8 minutes, 32 seconds, of the second half. The quick strikes in the final period added some variety.
“Not taking anything away from them, but there were some things we did on defense that really didn’t help us,” Fox said. “That was the part that was disappointing. When we had to make plays on third down, we didn’t make them and that was on offense and defense.”
PIERCE 35, WAHOO 7
PIE--Meier 1 run (Osborn kick)
WAH--Kavan 13 blocked punt return (Lindgren kick)
PIE--Meier 5 run (Osborn kick)
PIE--Ronspies 4 run (Osborn kick)
PIE--Spieker 81 run (Osborn kick)
PIE--Ronspies 72 run (Osborn kick)
RUSHING--Pierce, Meier 23-115, Spieker 9-115, Ronspies 6-97, Freeman 4-46, Rohrich 7-34, Murray 4-7, Team 1-(minus 2). Wahoo, Abbott 13-63, Kavan 13-30, Raymond 1-7, Langemeier 1-(minus 1).
PASSING--Pierce, Rohrich 3-4-0 69. Wahoo, Abbott 5-9-0 43.
RECEIVING--Pierce, Spieker 3-69. Wahoo, Kavan 2-29, Moline 1-13, Scheef 1-1, Langemeier 1-0.