ORD — The Pierce Bluejays are exactly who they think they are.
Combine a two-deep-plus group of strong, aggressive linemen with a stable of talented, hard-running backs and the product is a power-running game that eats up yardage, controls the clock and, most importantly, scores a pile of points.
That’s precisely what No. 2-ranked Pierce did during its 49-21 demolishing of seventh-ranked Ord on Friday night.
“Our kids played really hard, but we made a few mistakes in that first half, and they took advantage of it,” Chanticleers coach Nathan Wells said. “All credit to them; they’re just kind of a machine. We did a good job of getting them to third down, but we couldn’t make them punt. They didn’t punt all night. Our goal was to make them punt three or four times, and we just didn’t do it.”
The Bluejays didn’t score on every possession, but to Ord, it may have seemed like it. Five times, including a seven-play 67-yard drive to open the game, Pierce scored touchdowns in the first half while building a 35-14 lead.
A dominating offensive line paved the way for quarterback Dalton Freeman (15 carries, 154 yards, three touchdowns), Carson Oestreich (13 carries, 116 yards, two touchdowns) and Brett Tinker (16 carries, 143 yards). A fumble and a fourth-down try that came up short were the only times Pierce didn’t finish a first-half drive with a touchdown.
“I imagine it’s pretty hard to try to defend us, because all of us can do what we want with the ball, and the linemen do such a great job of blocking for us,” Freeman said. “They open up gaps, and us backs just follow them up. I guess all three of us are good weapons to have.”
Freeman scored twice in the first period on runs of 9 and 38 yards, sandwiching a 19-yard touchdown pass from Ord quarterback Zach Smith to tight end Bentley Reilly to provide Pierce with a 14-7 lead.
In the second quarter, Oestreich’s first of two scores — a 3-yard run — increased the Bluejays’ lead to 20-7, but Chaden Roth’s PAT kick was blocked. When the Chanticleers’ Tommy Stevens scampered 92 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff and Kelen Meyer kicked the point after, Ord was trailing just 20-14 and was within a possession of taking the lead.
But Pierce scored two more touchdowns in the final minute and 14 seconds of the period.
The first touchdown came on a 17-yard catch-and-run completion from Freeman to Oestreich, and on the second, coach Mark Brahmer followed the advice of his quarterback, as the Bluejays ran a wingback pass that freshman Abram Scholting completed for a 5-yard touchdown to Garret Meyer for a 35-14 advantage as time expired in the first half.
“We installed that play about week three, and we worked at it since then,” Brahmer said. “I can’t take credit for it, because I didn’t call it. I designed it, but Dalton Freeman made the call when we called timeout with three seconds left.”
Meanwhile, Ord’s second-quarter offense consisted of a three-and-out punt on one possession and a fumble on the first play of another. The fumble was recovered by Pierce sophomore linebacker Colton Fritz, who added an interception in the fourth quarter.
“It didn’t seem like our offense was out there much in the second quarter,” Wells said. “They’re really good. That’s all there is to it.”
A valuable byproduct of the Bluejays’ ability to move the ball was controlling time of possession, keeping a potent Ord offense off the field.
“Our guys up front really played well, and we’ve got talented guys in the backfield,” Brahmer said. “All in all, sometimes your offense can be your best defense. Our defense did play well for the most part, except for a couple plays, but when you can keep an offense like that — with the talent and the scheme that they’ve got — off the field, that’s the best thing.”
“We were able to play zone pass defense, because we can put pressure on the quarterback with four down linemen, or we can send five or six and play man behind that,” he said. “Our secondary slowly but surely has gotten better and better.”
Brahmer cited fullback-linebacker Tinker for a combination of big plays on defense, as well as several “tough runs from the fullback position” on offense.
“I’ve been blessed to coach a lot of tremendous football players and tremendous young men, and I would put Brett Tinker right up there with a lot of those guys in terms of being one of my best,” Brahmer said.
A 57-yard run by Freeman for his third touchdown with just over a minute remaining in the third period had Pierce in control 42-14. The Chanticleers’ potent offense — which totaled 102 passing yards in the first half — added just 13 yards second half. Smith completed 7 of 15 passes.
“We knew they were possibly going to throw it 25 to 30 times, so we needed to sharpen our defense up and be ready for them to throw the ball and make plays on them,” Freeman said. “We mixed up our coverages to keep them off balance.”
Stevens added one last touchdown for Ord on a 3-yard run before Oestreich finished scoring with a 51-yard breakaway run to create the 49-21 final score.
The Bluejays, now 11-0, will play at top-seeded Adams-Central — which defeated Aurora 17-0 — on Friday in a battle of unbeaten teams.
“I know they run a spread offense, and they’ve got a kid who can throw it and a kid who can catch it really well,” Brahmer said. “Their running back is one of the better ones in Class C1, and I know they’re good defensively, so we’ll put our plan together over the weekend and hit the ground running on Monday.”
Class C1 quarterfinal
Pierce (11-0) 14 21 7 7 — 49
Ord (7-4) 7 7 0 7 — 21
PIE: Dalton Freeman 9 run (Chaden Roth kick), 9:41.
OR: Bentley Reilly 19 pass from Zach Smith (Kelen Meyer kick), 5:58.
PIE: Freeman 38 run (Roth kick), :49.
PIE: Carson Oestreich 3 run (kick failed), 7:45.
OR: Tommy Stevens 92 kickoff return (Meyer kick), 7:29.
PIE: Oestreich 17 pass from Freeman (Ben Brahmer pass from Freeman), 1:14.
PIE: Garret Meier 5 pass from Abram Scholting (Roth kick), :00.
PIE: Freeman 57 run (Roth kick), 1:19.
OR: Stevens 3 run (Meyer kick), 10:55.
PIE: Oestreich 51 run (Roth kick), 8:37.