By PATRICK SLACK
Pierz 40, Milaca 7
There was no secret about what Pierz was going to do.
And there was nothing Milaca could do to stop it.
Without attempting a single pass, the host Pioneers bulldozed their way to a 40-7 season-opening win, Thursday, churning out all of their 335 yards of total offense on the ground.
It took a little while for Pierz to click early on, with the game remaining scoreless at the end of the first quarter.
Then, on Pierz’ first drive of the second quarter, senior Nathan Athman powered in from two yards out, with junior Robbie Skiba breaking free from 47 yards away on the ensuing possession to extend the lead to 13-0.
That score held until right before halftime, when Milaca, playing with its backup quarterback, connected on a 10-yard pass to close the gap to 13-7 heading into the break.
Any momentum gained by the Wolves was quickly lost, however, as Pierz struck on a 20-yard touchdown run by senior Tyler Millner, then a 15-yard fumble return for a score by sophomore Noah Boser to push the lead to 27-7 less than three minutes into the third quarter.
Even offensive fumbles bounced in Pierz’ favor in the second half, as senior quarterback Mac Gruber scooped up a loose snap and scored from one yard away on the Pioneers’ following drive.
Athman added his second touchdown of the game in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, closing the scoring and enabling the Pioneers to empty their bench.
“We were very pleased with our discipline (one penalty) and no turnovers,” Pierz head coach Leo Pohlkamp said. “With four new faces on the line, they performed well enough so we didn’t have to throw the ball. That is a recipe for success.”
A dozen different Pioneers ended up carrying the ball on the night, led by Millner with 104 yards, Skiba with 89 and Athman with 63.
Defensively, Athman and senior Evan Woitalla combined for nine solo and eight assisted tackles, with Millner intercepting a pass.
Pierz hosts Holdingford, Friday. Holdingford handed Pierz its only two losses a year ago.
Upsala-Swanville Area 44, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg 6
At the start of fall practice, head coach Jay Loven wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the Upsala-Swanville Area football team until its first game.
With new faces at 19 of 22 positions, a bit of a bumpy start would have not only been understandable, but expected.
So much for that.
Behind five first-half touchdowns from one of its three returning starters, senior running back Mitch Lange, the Patriots obliterated visiting Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg 44-6 in their season opener, Thursday.
Lange totaled 180 yards rushing on 20 carries by the end of a rout-shortened night’s work, then turned the reins over to sophomore Kyle Lange, who rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
Junior Tyler Evans completed 4-of-7 passes 47 yards and also rushed for 41 yards and a score, with junior Jordan Sales hauling in two passes for 34 yards and sophomore Carten Loven catching two for 13 yards.
USA travels to Browerville, Friday.
Royalton 41, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle 0
Averaging nearly 10 yards a carry, Royalton slowly and thoroughly wore down host Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, Thursday, on its way to a season-opening 41-0 rout.
The Royals had little need of a passing game, completing just one attempt, as it ran the ball 38 times for 368 yards, 9.68 yards an attempt.
Junior Kyle Billmeyer kicked off the scoring midway through the first quarter with a 4-yard touchdown run, with junior Brady Moulzolf and senior Cade Stang running for scores in the second quarter.
Leading 22-0 at halftime, Royalton put the finishing touches on the win with three scores in a span of 4:43 late in the third quarter, striking on touchdown carries by senior Tony Gadacz and freshman Michael Petron and a 70-yard punt return by Stang.
Stang led eight Royalton ball carriers who finished with at least 20 yards, rushing for 109 on 10 attempts.
Junior Austin Popp followed with 83 yards, Billmeyer accumulated 54 and sophomore Matt Daleidan had 37.
The contest was a far cry from last year’s opener between the two squads, when Royalton required a late punt return for a touchdown to come out on top 19-14.
The Royals are scheduled to open Prairie Conference South play at United North Central, Friday.
Waseca 41, Little Falls 13
Little Falls opened fast in its season opener, marching down the field in two minutes out of a no-huddle offense to take a 7-0 lead.
The Flyers then looked like they might get off the field with a quick three-and-out, with a chance to run away with things early.
All of a sudden, though, a 73-yard touchdown run changed everything, helping Waseca make it a game early before it slowly pulled away late in a 41-13 win, Friday.
Senior Jalen Wuchko recorded the game’s first touchdown from seven yards out on his way to racking up 152 yards on 18 carries, before Waseca rebounded with a pair of scores to go on top 14-7.
Wuchko answered back immediately, returning the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown to close the gap to 14-13.
An injury sustained on a running into the kicker penalty forced the Flyers to go for two, a conversion they couldn’t convert as they would be unable to even up the score the rest of the night.
Little Falls drove the ball inside the Waseca 10-yard line twice in the second half as it tried to mount a comeback, but came up empty.
Sophomore Thomas Miller followed Wuchko with 50 yards rushing on seven carries, with junior Brighton Goodrich contributing 25 yards and senior Trysten Ross adding 17.
Splitting snaps at quarterback, junior Austin Fenske completed 3-of-6 passes for 10 yards and senior Lucas Cofell turned in a 29-yard completion to senior Michael Fregin.
Waseca held onto the football for more than two thirds of the game, thanks in large part to its quarterback Thomas O’Neil, who completed 11-of-18 passes for 97 yards and carried the ball 25 times for 190 yards and four touchdowns.
Up next for Little Falls is its Granite Ridge Conference opener at Albany, Friday.
Holdingford 22, St. Cloud Cathedral 19
Senior quarterback Mitch Messman threw for 70 yards and ran for another 92 as Holdingford avenged a season-opening loss from a year ago with a 22-19 win at St. Cloud Cathedral, Thursday.
Holdingford scored a touchdown in each of the first three quarters in building a 22-7 lead before fending off the Crusaders late.
Senior Jordan Gombos was the top rusher for the Huskers, carrying the ball 21 times for 94 yards, with senior Cody Bialka catching three passes for 37 yards.
Holdingford travels to Pierz, Friday.