Pierce vs Adams Central

PIERCE — A fast start on a frigid Friday night put Pierce in a familiar spot.

For the fourth straight year, the Bluejays will end their season in Lincoln’s Memorial Stadium after they used a 21-0 start to propel themselves to a 45-26 win over Adams Central in the Class C1 semifinals Friday night at Pierce High School.

The second-ranked Bluejays took control in the game’s first 6½ minutes, scoring quickly on each of their first three possessions with their explosive ground game, which racked up 466 yards on 52 carries against the Patriots.

The Bluejays rode the shifty legs of junior Keenan Valverde, who had more than half of his game-high 298 yards by halftime and capped the early explosion with a 62-yard run finding a seam on the right side and beating the defense to the corner to give Pierce a 21-0 lead with 5:18 to go in the first quarter.

“That was our biggest momentum push,” the 155-pound tailback said after the game. “When we got those first couple of touchdowns, we knew we had to keep it going and we did.”

Adams Central coach Shawn Mulligan said Pierce’s big offensive line was too much to handle in the early going.

“(Valverde) is very elusive, but it starts with their guys up front,” he said. “They are just so physical up front and solid in their blocking schemes and you give a kid like him a seam and he’s going to have a lot of success.”

Pierce got on the board quickly, needing just four plays to find paydirt on a 23-yard run by fullback Tristan Kuehler, then used a Ben Brahmer interception to set up a 3-yard sneak by Abram Scholting for a quick 14-0 lead before Valverde’s big run.

The Bluejays had a chance to make it a four-score game but were thwarted when Nick Conant intercepted a pass at the Patriots’ 2-yard line and Adams Central responded with an 82-yard pass from Sam Dierks to Jack Trausch.

“We took a shot there when we probably should have run the ball,” Pierce coach Mark Brahmer said. “They’re a great football team and they created some adversity for us and every time we needed to respond we were able to.”

The Patriots made a game of it before halftime as Dierks found Holden O’Dey for a 10-yard score late in the first half. Pierce had a touchdown called back on a holding penalty in the closing seconds, leaving the score 27-14 at halftime.

The Bluejays scored a pair of third-quarter touchdowns to put the game out of reach. Valverde scored on a 51-yard gallop, and Scholting added an 11-yard run to make it 39-14.

Coach Brahmer said he was proud of his team’s effort, especially on defense, which limited the Patriots to under 200 yards until late in the game when the reserves allowed a pair of late scores.

“We’ve become a pretty darn good defensive team the last month, and (Adams Central) had a very good team with a couple of good running backs and good receivers and a good quarterback, and we were able to hold them in check.”

The Patriots ended their final season 9-3, but Mulligan said the 10 seniors on the team have a lot to be proud of with a state runner-up finish, two semifinal appearances and a district title during their four years.

“To get to the semis three times in four years is a fantastic job,” he said. “They did everything we asked of them over the years and they can take this with them and be happy with how they performed in their high school careers, as am I,”

Now the 12-0 Bluejays turn their attention to undefeated and top-ranked Aurora in the C1 final on Tuesday, Nov. 22, and Brahmer said that, for once, his team can be the one chasing the top team in the state.

“They were runner-up in Class B last year and in years past we’ve been the hunted and everybody was out for us, so now they’re No. 1 and we get to be the hunter,” he said. “You win in preparation for the game so we’ll heal up and warm up and have a good week of preparation and go down and show well.”

Class C1 semifinal

Pierce 21 6 12 6 — 45

Adams Central 7 7 0 12 — 26

Scoring summary

FIRST QUARTER

P: Tristan Kuehler 23 run (Kick failed)

P: Abram Scholting 3 run (Ben Brahmer pass from Scholting)

P: Keenan Valverde 62 run (Valverde kick)

AC: Jack Trausch 82 pass from Sam Dierks (Kaleb Wahlmeier kick)

SECOND QUARTER

P: Jayden Coulter 19 pass from Scholting (Kick failed)

AC: Holden O’Dey 10 pass from Dierks (Wahlmeier kick)

THIRD QUARTER

P: Valverde 51 run (Run failed)

P: Scholting 11 run (Run failed)

FOURTH QUARTER

AC: Jayden Teichmeier 16 pass from Dierks (Kick failed)

P: Ben Brahmer 14 pass from Scholting (Kick failed)

AC: Hyatt Collins 37 run (Kick failed)

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