PIERCE – As 11-man playoff football is set to begin next week, a pair of northeast Nebraska ranked teams were looking to improve on their seeding Friday night.
In Pierce, #7 Pierce (LJS) hosted #10 Wayne (OWH) on a chilly evening.
A game that featured a back-and-forth battle came down to the end as Pierce held on for the 35-27 victory. The Class C1 defending state champs closed out their regular season undefeated at home and are now 7-2 while Wayne High fell to 5-4.
Following a three-and-out defensive stop by Wayne High, the Blue Devils marched down the field on their opening drive and scored thanks to a two-yard passing touchdown from senior Tanner Walling to junior Daniel Judd. Senior Yair Alcantara knocked through the extra-point to give WHS the early 7-0 lead with 5:25 left in the first quarter.
After Pierce was forced to punt a second straight time, Wayne High’s Walling was picked off by junior Abram Scholting which led to a Bluejay score. Scholting hooked up with senior Ritter Oestreich from 17-yards. Sophomore Keenan Valverde knocked through the extra-point with 2:04 remaining in the first to tie the game at 7-7.
WHS then regained the lead early in the second quarter (11:11 left until half) when senior Brandon Bartos raced off for a 34-yard score. Alcantara made the extra-point to put WHS ahead 14-7.
Pierce closed out the second quarter with back-to-back scoring drives as Scholting connected with senior Kaden Johnson on a 31-yard strike (extra-point blocked) with 8:28 left until half. Following a Wayne punt late in the quarter, senior Matt Christensen capped off a long series with a five-yard score. The Bluejays converted the two points when junior Addison Croghan caught the ball from Scholting with 1:29 remaining in the second quarter.
Wayne High got right back in scoring position but on a fourth down senior Michael Kruntorad picked off Walling and ran out the final seconds.
Pierce led Wayne High 21-14 at the half.
Pierce began the third quarter with a defensive three-and-out and got the ball early in the quarter. The Bluejays scored the lone third quarter points on a halfback pass from junior Colby Anderson to junior Ben Brahmer from 13-yards. Valverde knocked through the extra-point to give Pierce at 28-14 lead with 7:23 left in the third quarter.
Wayne High was forced to punt late in the third and they also turned the ball over on downs inside the Pierce 10 halfway through the fourth as Pierce punted twice.
With 6:15 remaining in the game, Wayne High got the ball back and drove down to the one-yard line where Walling snuck in for the touchdown. Following the extra-point from Alcantara, Wayne High trailed 28-21 with 3:14 to play in the game and all three timeouts.
WHS failed to recover the onside kick as Pierce was able to run down the clock to 47 seconds and used a second rushing touchdown from Christensen (one-yard) and extra-point to lead 35-21.
Wayne High never gave up and Walling found junior Alex Phelps on a 22-yard passing touchdown as time expired (no PAT attempt).
Final favored Pierce over Wayne, 35-27 as both teams will earn a wildcard spot in the Class C1 playoffs.
1st 2nd Half 3rd 4th Final:
7 7 14 0 13 27 – Wayne
7 14 21 7 7 35 – Pierce
The 11-man playoff football brackets will be released Saturday morning with the first round being Friday, October 29.
Unofficial Class C1 bracket according to the updated wildcard points, Wayne High would receive the final wildcard and the #14 seed. WHS could travel back to #3 Boone Central where the Cardinals defeated Wayne 35-13 on October 8.
Unofficial Class C1 bracket: *wildcard
#1 Ashland-Greenwood (9-0) vs. #16 Adams Central (6-3)
#8 Broken Bow (7-2)* vs. #9 Pierce (7-2)*
#5 Columbus Scotus (8-1)* vs. #12 Fort Calhoun (7-2)*
#4 Chadron (9-0) vs. #13 Battle Creek (6-3)*
#3 Boone Central (9-0) vs. #14 Wayne (5-4)*
#6 Milford (8-1) vs. #11 Columbus Lakeview (7-2)
#7 Auburn (7-2)* vs. #10 Wahoo (6-3)*
#2 Kearney Catholic (9-0) vs. #15 Boys Town (6-3)
Points updated as of 11:59 p.m. Friday:
1st Ashland-Greenwood (9-0), 46.0000
2nd Kearney Catholic (9-0), 45.6667
3rd Boone Central (8-1), 45.1111
4th Chadron (9-0), 44.1111
5th Columbus Scotus (8-1), 44.1111*
6th Milford (8-1), 43.4444
7th Auburn (7-2), 43.2222*
8th Broken Bow (7-2), 42.8889*
9th Pierce (7-2), 42.5556*
10th Wahoo (6-3), 42.0000*
11th Columbus Lakeview (7-2), 41.8889
12th Fort Calhoun (7-2), 41.5556*
13th Battle Creek (6-3), 41.3333*
14th Wayne (5-4), 41.1111*
15th Boys Town (6-3), 41.0000
16th Adams Central (6-3), 40.0000
Mitchell (6-3), 39.7778
Ogallala (5-4), 39.7778
Platteview (5-4), 39.4444
Nebraska City (6-3), 39.3333
Minden (5-4), 39.1111
Douglas County West (5-4), 39.1111
Cozad (5-4), 39.1111
St. Paul (5-4), 38.7778