Pierz adapting to defensive scheme change
There are a lot of things that are important for a high school team to be successful in sports. One that seems to be becoming increasingly vital is adaptability.
Leo Pohlkamp is beginning his 29th season as the head coach for Pierz. Even though his team made the state playoffs last season, he decided to make a scheme change this fall.
Last season, the Pioneers started four linemen and three linebackers on defense. This season, Pierz will go with three linemen and four linebackers.
“It seems that everybody is doing that and it seems to give you more flexibility in what you can do,” Pohlkamp said. “We’ve got some kids who haven’t played 3-4 and it’s going to be our job to coach them up and get them ready.
“But these kids seem to be pretty darn smart.”
If the first few days of practice are any indication, the Pioneers seem to be adjusting quickly.
“We need to communicate a lot on defense because it’s a lot of new stuff,” said senior Robbie Skiba, who will start at linebacker. “Everybody needs to do their job.”
Beau Winscher, a senior, is moving from to linebacker after starting at defensive end last season.
“It’s confusing at first, but everybody’s getting the hang of it,” Winscher said. “We don’t have the size that we did last year.
“Toward the end of (last) year, I missed the linebacker position and now I’m back there. It’s kind of a relief to be back where I used to be.”
Skiba (45 tackles) and Winscher (56 tackles, 5 1/2 sacks) are two of the six returning starters from a defense that gave up an average of 15.3 points last season. The other returning starters are ends Ryan Schmidtbauer (8 tackles) and Austin Gall (57 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks), linebacker Noah Boser (54 tackles, 4 pass deflections), safety Michael Meyer (16 tackles, 3 pass deflections) and cornerback Jonny Kasper (57 tackles, 11 pass deflections).
The six returning starters on offense are Skiba at running back, Winscher at tight end, quarterback Ethan Lochner, center Dan Poegel, right guard Austin Gall and Schmidtbauer at left guard. Gall started last season at tight end.
The Pioneers rushed for 3,183 yards (6.3 yards-per-carry average) and 43 touchdowns and averaged 26.8 points last season.
“Probably the strength of our team is we have a good stable of running backs,” Pohlkamp said.
Uncharacteristically, the Pioneers finished third in the conference last season. But, despite moving up to Class 3A, Pierz advanced to the state playoffs for the 10th time.
“It was a big confidence boost and everybody knows what we need to do,” Winscher said. “We want to get back there and get some more.”