Ground game leads Pierce past East Nic
Pierce High coach Scott Burnum wasn't completely ecstatic with his team's 31-14 Friday night victory in East Nicolaus.
"Things can get crazy in rivalry games, guys," he said as his team took a knee. "It's the mental things."
While Pierce controlled the pace in the first half, marching out to a 17-7 lead, and adding an early touchdown in the third quarter, little mistakes allowed Zach Schuler and the Spartans to hang around.
A fumble in the second quarter handed the Spartans the ball on their own 22, and two plays later, Schuler made Pierce pay.
The junior quarterback found Francisco Silvas on a quick out and he was gone down the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown.
But that was the only real damage the Spartans could muster in the first half.
Pierce's slow and steady attack on the ground, led by Andy Corona, scored on its first two possessions of the game.
Corona finished with 25 carries for 170 yards and three scores, including a 14-yard catch in the first half. Pepper in runs from Hayden Kalfsbeek, Joey Hernandez and Adolfo Ramirez and the Bears' rushing attack had little trouble moving the ball.
Pierce quarterback Nate Smith scooted on a keeper from 7 yards out and scored after stretching his arms to break the plane, to put the Bears up 24-7 in the third quarter.
However, East Nicolaus stacked the box, blitzed on nearly every third down and slowed the Bears in the second half. Combine that with Pierce being penalized seven times and the game got a little hairy for the No. 3 ranked D-III team in the Northern Section.
With 7:32 remaining in the game, Schuler found Silvas over the middle in stride from 18 yards out, to put the game at 24-14.
But an onside kick attempt failed and Pierce all but sealed the game.
The Bears bottled up Schuler for the most part. A vicious sack from Chas Benton early in the second half put an exclamation point on a somewhat frustrating night for the Spartans.
Schuler finished 11 of 27 passing for 160 yards, the two touchdowns and an interception on a fake punt. He also rushed 12 times for 61 yards to lead the Spartans on the ground.
Silvas caught four passes for nearly 100 yards and the two scores.
Pierce kicker Victor Santilalan drilled a field goal from 30 yards out to complete the scoring.