Irish end regular season with a loss against Pioneers


With key players on the bench, the Maple Lake Irish football team ended their regular season with a 23-6 home loss to the Pierz Pioneers.
Zach Johnson stepped in as an emergency quarterback and his team tried to lean on him early.
“At first, we caught them off balance,” coach Tim Knudsen said. “We wanted to see if we could throw the ball because they’re awfully big up front.”
The Irish moved the ball well, but stalled and turned the ball over on downs. 
Pierz couldn’t get much going on their first drive, but neither could Maple Lake on their second drive.
With 3:45 left in the first, Lucas Fobbe caught an interception near midfield. Less than a minute later, an Irish fumble gave the ball back to the visitors. 
At the end of the first quarter, the score remained 0-0.
In the second quarter, Pierz was determined to get on the scoreboard.
Their first attempt flamed out when a batted-down pass on third down and 11 to go forced an unsuccessful field-goal attempt.
While the field goal was unsuccessful, it did pin the home team deep in their own territory. Johnson was sacked, setting up a punt and good field position for the opponents.
Pierz’s second red-zone scoring attempt was more successful, but not without resistance.
“Nick Gapinski made a nice hit on their running back that stopped him short,” Knudsen said of the collision that could be heard throughout the stands.
Unfortunately for the green and black, Pierz pounded in a touchdown and two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead, which stood at halftime.
Maple Lake caught the Pioneers off guard with an onside kick to start the second half. The home team went on to score on a pass from Johnson to Ryan Kalinowski, but could not make good on the two-point conversion.
Pierz scored twice in the next seven minutes to increase the lead to 23-6.
Defense was the name of the game for the last quarter. Nic Paumen recovered a fumble, but the offense was unable to put together a scoring drive.
The game essentially ended on a Maple Lake fumble with 38 seconds remaining, as Pierz knelt on the ball twice.
“We played about as well as we could with the young guys,” Knudsen said. “I’m very proud of them.”
More information and stats appear in this week's Messenger.