PIERCE, Neb. — They’ll party like, well, maybe like never before here.
For the first time in the storied history of the Pierce program, the Bluejays won a state championship on their home field when they led almost the entire way in a 28-19 victory Friday night over Adams Central.
The victory was the exclamation point on a 12-0 season that culminated with the Class C-1 championship, Pierce’s first since winning back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008.
“My hat goes off to Pierce,” Adams Central coach Shawn Mulligan said. “They’re a really good football team. … They had a fantastic season.”
It may have been a surprising accomplishment considering all of the graduation losses Pierce had after last year’s runner-up finish. But coach Mark Brahmer said this team had the potential all along.
“This is a big accomplishment for this group,” he said. “This group of seniors has always kind of been waiting in the wings behind last year’s senior class. Our senior class last year was really a good football class, and they deserved this kind of a championship as much as this group.”
The difference between the last two seasons might have been health, even with the pandemic.
“We were healthy all year, and we really weren’t impacted by the COVID crisis,” Brahmer said. “Our guys, just little by little, got better and better. They really did.”
Abram Scholting finished 12-of- 22 passing for 200 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Tyler Race sprinted for a 48-yard touchdown to open the game’s scoring as part of his game highs of 19 carries for 127 yards.
Adams Central quarterback Cam Foster threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns on 13 completions as the Patriots outgained the Bluejays 420-341 in total offense. But Pierce picked off two passes in the fourth quarter and recovered a fumble in the end zone in the first half.
“In a game like this, there were some plays here and there,” Mulligan said. “We had some blown coverages (and) a couple of turnovers.”
The turning point came in the third quarter.
Adams Central had just connected on a 51-yard pass from Foster to Tyler Slechta — its second big passing play of the game — that put the Patriots at the 5-yard line. Two runs netted a yard each, and on third down, a holding penalty nullified what would have been a tying touchdown.
Instead, the Pierce defense held and forced a Slechta field goal that kept the lead at 14-10.
On the next drive, Scholting rolled to his left and lofted a pass to senior Garret Meier, who was already behind the defense. Meier caught it at the 15 and dragged a defender into the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown.
Adams Central then went stagnant, throwing three straight incompletions before Scholting made the play of the game. He escaped pressure, ran almost all the way back to the original line of scrimmage, then threw a dart to Ben Brahmer, who came back to the ball before maneuvering around a defender for a touchdown.
That gave Pierce a 28-10 lead, and though the Bluejays didn’t score any more, their defense made sure it didn’t need to.
“Pierce was the better team tonight, and they’re the state champion and we’re the runner-up, but that doesn’t take away from our season,” Mulligan said. “We did a fantastic job.”
Adams Central (10-3).....7 0 10 2—19
At Pierce (12-0).............7 7 14 0—28
P: Tyler Race 48 run (Chaden Roth kick)
AC: Tyler Slechta 80 pass from Cam Foster (Slechta kick)
P: Logan Moeller 28 pass from Abram Scholting (Roth kick)
AC: Slechta 21 field goal
P: Garret Meier 33 pass from Scholting (Roth kick)
P: Ben Brahmer 39 pass from Scholting (Roth kick)
AC: Slade Smith 69 pass from Foster (Slechta kick)
AC: Team safety