Neumann knocks off Pierce in quarterfinals
WAHOO — For about six minutes Friday night, it appeared No. 2-seeded Pierce had done just enough to end an upset bid by Wahoo Neumann.
But then the 10th-seeded Cavaliers called on their kicker when it mattered most.
David Lilly nailed a 29-yard field goal to cap a drive that took 6 minutes, 14 seconds and answered a Pierce score to prematurely end undefeated Pierce’s season 23-21 in a thrilling Class C1 quarterfinal game at Wayne Reeves Field here.
“They were able to steal the momentum,” Pierce coach Mark Brahmer said. “We needed to play better defensively at times, but we also needed to control the ball offensively to keep it away from them. Hats off to them. They were just a little bit better than us tonight.”
Pierce seemed to have zero momentum after a fumble with 1:38 left in the third quarter, but the Bluejay defense came through with a three-and-out. Then Pierce did to the Cavaliers what the hosts had done earlier in the game — use a long, clock-eating drive to put points on the board.
A 13-play drive that took 5:54 off the clock seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. It was keyed by a Dalton Freeman six-yard run on third-and-2, before Freeman found Jadon Magdanz for a 21-yard gain on third-and-7. After a pair of Carson Oestreich runs put Pierce near the door, Brett Tinker knocked through with a 1-yard touchdown run. Chaden Roth added the extra point to put Pierce ahead 21-20.
But then Pierce couldn’t get the one stop that it needed to finish off the win.
There was a 14-yard gain on second-and-12 to begin the drive for Neumann. Eli Vedral gained 13 on third-and-3. On third-and-5, it was Vedral again, gaining seven.
It looked like Pierce would get its stop after an illegal man downfield penalty negated a big Neumann gain on third down. But on third-and-12 from the Pierce 38, Vedral gained seven on a run, and then he found Trey Miller on an out route for a fourth-down conversion with 1:09 left. Another Vedral run, a short pass, and a Brandon Blum run pushed the ball down to the 11.
But Vedral was sacked, forcing Neumann to use its last timeout with 10 seconds left at the Pierce 12. It was decision time. Go for the field goal—– something Neumann hadn’t attempted even once this year — or try for a touchdown, and risk getting tackled in bounds with no timeouts?
Neumann ultimately opted for Lilly and the field-goal team. It was a surprising call by Neumann coach Tim Turman given that Lilly had made extra points at only about a 40-percent rate this season.
“We had no timeouts left. The last thing I wanted to do was end the game on about the three-yard-line with the clock running out,” he said.
Pierce used one timeout to set up its defense, and called for it just before the snap. Lilly attempted the field goal anyway, and the kick was short and right.
“I heard the timeout right before the snap,” he said. “I figured I’d get one kick in to see where I’m at.”
On his second try, Lilly nailed it.
“I just had trust in everyone. I knew Dalton Bartak would get a good snap and Eli would get a good hold. I just needed to kick it through the uprights,” Lilly said.
The Bluejays did have one final chance after Oestreich knelt after catching the kickoff, but Freeman was stopped after a 12-yard gain to end the game.
“The kid missed it when we called the timeout and made it when he had the shot,” Brahmer said. “Hats off to Tim Turman. He’s a good football coach, and the kids played hard. They were the better team tonight than us.”
Pierce had the momentum early after it scored on its first two possessions to lead 14-0 with 2:42 left in the first quarter thanks to two touchdown passes by quarterback Dalton Freeman. The first was to Gavin Larson on fourth-and-six from the 21, and the second to Magdanz to cap a nine-play, 61-yard drive that took 4:17.
“We told them all week that this is a really good team,” Turman said. “They’re going to move the ball on us. They’re going to make plays. But I really thought that the worst thing that they could do was to go down and score right away. Well, they go down and score right away twice.”
But the Bluejays were grounded from there, with its next four drives ending in a punt, interception, punt and a fumble. And Neumann took advantage with long drives.
Jarrett Kmiecik picked off Freeman with 56 seconds left in the first half. Vedral then efficiently took the Cavaliers down the field, converting one third-down attempt on the ground before finding Trey Miller in front of the Pierce sideline down to the 16 with enough time for one more play. Vedral fired to Kmiecik near the back of the end zone, who got a toe down in bounds with no time on the clock.
“The touchdown we got before half was a big deal,” Turman said. “We could go into the locker room and say that we moved the ball and we can do things.”
That flipped the momentum. The Cavaliers got the ball first to begin the second half, and ended a nearly 3!-W-minute drive with an old-school triple-option play to Blum, but the two-point conversion failed to keep the Bluejays in front.
But the damage was already done. At that point, Neumann had run 18-straight offensive plays between the end of the first half and the start of the second. The damage showed on the next drive, when fullback Luke Fairbanks broke free up the middle for a 35-yard touchdown run — the third time in the five-play drive that the Cavaliers gained at least 14 yards.
Pierce ended its season with a 10-1 record and a result that it surely wasn’t expecting.
“We told them that, No. 1, we love them, and No. 2, that we appreciate all the hard work and the effort and the commitment that they’ve given to our program,” Brahmer said. “I wouldn’t trade these guys for the world.”
Pierce (10-1) 14 0 0 7 — 21
Neumann (9-2) 0 6 14 3 — 23
PIE: Gavin Larson 21 pass from Dalton Freeman, Chaden Roth kick, 8:25.
PIE: Jadon Magdanz 6 pass from Freeman, Roth kick, 2:42.
WN: Jarrett Kmiecik 16 pass from Eli Vedral, PAT failed, 0:00.
WN: Brandon Blum 16 run, PAT failed, 8:34.
WN: Luke Fairbanks 35 run, Trey Miller pass from Vedral, 3:32.
PIE: Brett Tinker 1 run, Roth kick, 6:18.
WN: David Lilly 29 field goal, 0:04.