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Pierce drops Durham to advance
The Pierce High fans could almost hear the rumblings of next week in the air as their Bears finished off Durham 37-12 in the opening round of the Northern Section Div. III Playoffs Friday night at Gregg Lemaster Field in Arbuckle.
What many agree should be the Division III championship game will instead be a semifinal showdown against visiting Willows as the Honkers dispatched East Nicolaus 41-14.
But Pierce (11-0) had other business to attend to first.
Senior running back Andy Corona rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries and the Pierce defense held Durham to 41 yards of total offense after three quarters en route to the convincing victory.
And this time the Bears (11-0) made sure the Trojans (4-7) were never in the contest.
"We did not play well last time," coach Scott Burnum said.
But the team was convinced it could exploit the defensive front line of the Trojans, and offensive coordinator Chuck Wayman built a game plan to do just that.
He said he anticipated Durham coming out in the same sets as in the last game because, quite frankly, it worked well for them.
"We made a lot of a good adjustments ... and we ran a lot on the weak side tonight," said Wayman.
The Bears also threw a lot of numbers at the Durham defenders. Five different runners carried the ball, amassing 321 yards on the ground.
And the ground attack started early.
After the teams exchanged possessions to open the contest, the top-seeded Bears put together a four-play 58-yard drive capped by Corona's 38-yard sprint to the end zone to make it 6-0.
Corona said the 21-20 close call in the teams' first meeting definitely motivated the club.
"It was a big motivation," he said. "We felt like we could run right up the gut on them, and we did."
The senior also said the team has done a good job all year of focusing on each game as it came up on the schedule, not distracted by what is out there waiting for them, or by the fact they are undefeated.
Burnum said that moment seemed to pass last week.
"We came out a lot more nervous last week, but when we got to 10-0, we relaxed and just played football," Burnum said.
Early in the second period Nate Smith connected with Victor Santilalan on a 45-year aerial strike to make it 12-0, then Corona added his second TD, this time from 10 yards out, to make it 18-0 with 3:48 left in the half.
An interception by Oscar Sanchez set up Pierce's fourth score, a 2-yard bull rush by Hayden Kalfsbeek and an extra point by Santilalan, and the rout was on at 25-0 with 9:33 left in the third period.
In the end, the defense collected two picks, the other by Santilalan, and combined on six sacks to leave eighth-seeded Durham without any hope.
By the time junior Adolfo Ramirez broke free for a 2-yard TD, then added a 1-yard plunge on the first play of the fourth period, it was 37-0 and all over but the singing.
Ramirez's second score was set up by his own 63-yard scamper to end the third period, and started the running clock.
Pierce finished with 372 total yards of offense. Smith was 2-for-3 for 51 yards with the touchdown pass and one interception. The Bears also fumbled the ball away twice, once on the Durham 2.
The Trojans added two fourth-quarter scores: A 60-yard bomb from Brycen Buck to Zack Marks and a 1-yard toss from Buck to Marks on what amounted to the last play of the game.
The Trojans finished with 156 yards of offense, 115 coming in the fourth quarter, and finished with a minus-7 yards rushing.