State Class AA football: Pipestone Area rolls again

ST. CLOUD -- Pipestone Area expected it to get tougher as the Class AA state tournament wore on. It sure didn't appear that way Friday. For the second straight week, the Arrows won in blowout fashion. This time, it knocked off United North Centra...

JESSE TRELSTAD/DAILY GLOBE Pipestone Area football players share with their fans after beating United North Central in the semifinals of the Minnesota state Class AA tournament Friday night.


ST. CLOUD - Pipestone Area expected it to get tougher as the Class AA state tournament wore on.
It sure didn’t appear that way Friday.
For the second straight week, the Arrows won in blowout fashion. This time, it knocked off United North Central 49-9. More important is what lies ahead: Prep Bowl XXXIV.
“Words can’t describe it,” said Pipestone Area senior Justin Rops, who finished the game with four catches for 129 yards and three touchdowns. “To be able to be the first (Pipestone) team to do this in more than 30 years is awesome. It’s awesome to share this with all of these guys, because they’re my brothers.”
The Arrows didn’t waste any time. On UNC’s first three drives, it ran nine plays for minus-two yards. On Pipestone Area’s first two drives, it ran eight plays and scored twice.
In their two state tournament games thus far, fast starts have been the theme. In wins over the Warriors and Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, PA has an advantage of 433-141 in first half yardage and an 85-7 scoring differential.
“I really think it starts up front,” Pipestone Area head coach Clay Anderson said. “We proved to ourselves that we could hang with anyone in the second game of the year against Jackson County Central. We’re pretty good up there. We had a really young backfield out there at times tonight but they kept getting holes.”
A quick three-and-out and a nice return by Brayden Baartman set them up at the UNC 43 to start their first possession. They ran it down to the 26, setting up a perfect opportunity for play-action on third down. The Warriors bit hook, line and sinker. Baartman found Rops wide open at the 10-yard line. He walked into the end zone for six. Caleb Tinklenberg’s PAT made it 7-0 with 7:57 left in the opening frame.
The score didn’t stay that way for long. After another 3-and-out forced by the Arrow defense, it took the offense just three plays to find the end zone again. A 19-yard run by Baartman and an 11-yarder for Austin Moeller was followed by a stellar TD run by Baartman. He found a hole to his right, spun out of a couple tackles and crossed the goal line for a 33-yard TD scamper. With 5:40 in the first, it was 13-0.
That is where the score stood at the end of one quarter.
The Warriors did their first damage early in the second quarter. On 4th-and-7 from the Pipestone 22, quarterback Tom Tellers was flushed out of the pocket and put up an off-balanced heave toward the back of the end zone. Senior wideout Thane Dailey was covered well, but he made a stellar lunging catch. That cut the Arrows’ lead to 13-7.
They needed just one play to respond.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Rops ran a go route and flat-out burned the UNC coverage. Baartman dropped in a perfect pass for a 74-yard touchdown strike. Trevor Schumann caught the 2-point conversion pass and just 15 seconds after having its lead cut to six, Pipestone Area was up 21-7.
“That was pretty unexpected to me because our coach is usually pretty conservative,” Rops said. “But we took a shot. I think he really just wanted to gain the momentum back after they scored. It worked because we pretty much took over from there.”
“We thought that was gonna be open because we saw on film that they had some trouble with the play-action,” Anderson said. “I would’ve liked to see a little more play-action there but Brayden did a great job extending the play and Justin ran a great route. It’s a good thing Brayden’s got a good arm because that was a beautiful throw.”
A risky play didn’t pan out for the Warriors on their ensuing drive. Trying to get something going against the stingy Arrow defense, they went for it on 4th-and-6 at their own 30 yard line. Blake Wolters and Garret Ploeger stormed into the backfield for Pipestone Area’s third sack of the game and a turnover on downs.
“Everything starts with defense,” said Arrows’ senior defensive end Daniel Larson. “Defense wins championships.”
Once again the Arrows made them pay. For the third time in the contest, Baartman found Rops for six. This time it was a 9-yarder that put them on top 28-7 with 4:45 before halftime.
Pipestone Area added a 5-yard touchdown run by Dylan McCormick with 19 seconds on the clock to carry a 35-7 lead into halftime. Through 24 minutes, the Arrows out-gained UNC 281-54. Baartman was 6-of-8 passing for 154 yards and Rops caught four passes for 129 and three scores.
After the aerial fireworks in the first half, the Arrows turned to the rushing attack on the opening drive of the second. Eight of the nine plays they used to cover 58 yards stayed on the ground. The last of those was a 13-yard run off the left side by Larson – who hadn’t played running back in five weeks but was called into duty after a knee injury sidelined Moeller in the second quarter -- on which he bulldozed over a defender into the end zone. That made it 42-7 in favor of the Arrows.
“It felt great, but I did it for Moeller. He’s my brother out there,” Larson said. “I didn’t know where I was for a minute there but when I saw red [end zone paint] I knew where I had to get.”
Baartman ended the third quarter by looking like a pinball, bouncing off of would-be tackler after would-be tackler. He was finally brought down after 21 yards at the Warriors’ 4. Larson finished the job on the first play of the fourth to put the Arrows up 49-7.
Shortly after the game, Rops said the fact his team will play for the title hadn’t sunk in yet.
“No it hasn’t,” he said. “No matter what, though, it will be so much fun.”
Baartman finished with a game-high 110 yards rushing on just nine carries. He also completed 9-of-12 passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns. Aside from Rops’ 129 receiving yards, Schumann had 31 and Tinklenberg had 23 on two catches each. Larson and Ploeger finished with 35 and 31 rushing yards, respectively.
The Arrow defense allowed just 143 yards of total offense. That was led by a 65-yard rushing effort by Tellers.
Pipestone Area (13-0 overall) will take on either Ottertail Central (11-0) or Caledonia (12-0) at 1 p.m. Friday at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis for the Class AA state title. The Bulldogs and Warriors play their semifinal at 1 p.m. today.
“I’m just really happy for these kids and our town,” Anderson said. “We have a great group of seniors who put in a lot of work to get to this point. With this being my first year we put in a whole new system and they embraced it. That shows their maturity. This is special for them. It’s been a fun ride and we’re excited. We know that no matter who we get next week they’re going to be good. We’re gonna have our hands full, but we’ll be ready.”
PA 13 22 7 7 - 49
UNC 0 7 0 2 - 9

JESSE TRELSTAD/DAILY GLOBE Quarterback Brayden Baartman of Pipestone Area gets past a UNC defender for a Pipestone Area first down.

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