PIERCE — The play of the game may have been a decade or more in the making.
The current sophomore class, including quarterback Abram Scholting and tight end Ben Brahmer, were among the first group who participated in a flag football league in Pierce that was started by their fathers, both of whom are on the coaching staff. Ben's father is head coach Mark Brahmer, and Abram's is assistant Carl Scholting.
Throw in the fact that the two are also friends who have played a lot of catch together on their own there's a trust level that just can't be taught.
“We've played for quite a while,” Abram Scholting said.
That trust was evident when the younger Scholting stepped back and had to circle past an Adams Central defender, darting around the corner on a play in the third quarter with Pierce leading 21-10. Then, just when it seemed he would take off and run, he stopped and let a pass fly in the direction of 6-foot-5 classmate Brahmer.
“He (Abram) must've said, 'Oh, Ben must be down there,' and he just chucked it,” Brahmer said.
Ben Brahmer stepped in front of an Adams Central defender, caught the pass just in front of the goal line, stopped and then turned around to run into the end zone to give his team a 28-10 lead with 2 minutes, 28 seconds left in the third quarter.
“I saw Ben,” Abram Scholting said. “I saw him a little deep. I liked the height advantage, so I just threw it up to him. He made the play. He made an amazing play.”
It was the kind of play you would expect someone to make while playing a pickup game in the back yard. And for many years, the duo had done just that.
“It was just two kids playing backyard football,” the elder Scholting said. “That was pretty awesome to see.”
That kind of chemistry is something that isn't built overnight, either.
“You saw that here tonight, escaping a sack and finding a receiver down by the goal line with Abram throwing to Ben,” the elder Scholting said.
Featuring the run
At the beginning of the season, it was more of a “running back by committee” approach for Pierce as it tried to replace the “three horsemen” of Dalton Freeman, Carson Oestreich and Brett Tinker, all of whom graduated this past spring.
But by Friday night, Race had emerged as the clear No. 1 running back. He finished with 127 yards on 19 carries, both game highs. In addition, Michael Kruntorad added 35 yards on 10 carries.
“It was a lot of fun letting everybody get involved,” Race said. “I think it helped having the three from last year. I really learned a lot from them last year.”
Ben Brahmer led the Bleu jays with 87 receiving yards on five catches, while Logan Moeller added 67 yards on three grabs and Garret Meier had 42 yards on two receptions.
Home sweet home
It was the first time since 1989 that Pierce hosted a state championship game.
While coach Brahmer said earlier in the week that his preference was home site for the finals, the players said that, by the end of the night, they could tell there was a different environment by playing in front of a hometown crowd.
“Our motivation for the semifinal was to get here now ... The crowd came and it was great,” Ben Brahmer said. “We know Pierce is always going to show up.”
Race said it was unique to play for a state title at home.
“It's obviously unfortunate that we couldn't play at Lincoln,” Race said. “I don't know. It might be better playing at home in front of your home crowd.”
Motivated to finish
If there was one prevailing theme Friday night, it was that Pierce wanted to atone for last year's performance in the state finals, a 38-0 loss to Wahoo.
Head coach Mark Brahmer said postgame that he took the blame for not easing the work load prior to the finals. Nonetheless, his players said they believed they had something to prove.
“We just wanted to erase it and prove that we can finish it,” Abram Scholting said. “We just wanted to come out here and win it.”
“The road here definitely hasn't been easy, but the gold medal at the end definitely makes it worth it,” Race said.