Pierre’s offensive arsenal put Aberdeen Central in a hole and the Golden Eagles could never quite get out of it Friday night at Swisher Field.
The second-rated Governors exploded for 18 points in the first seven minutes of the game on the way to a 52-35 Eastern South Dakota Conference football victory. Central started to make things interesting down the stretch, but could not overcome a 32-0 deficit to the start the contest.
“We play good football in spurts,” said Central coach Scott Svendsen. “If we play a complete game of football, we can play with anybody.”
It was the Governors that played nearly flawless on offense in the first half, racking up 39 points on five Lincoln Kienholz touchdown passes. The junior took advantage of time in the pocket to find open receivers most of the night. He finished with 377 yards passing and seven touchdowns, and also ran for a score.
“Our offensive line definitely deserves a lot of credit for what they did for him today, just to let him sit back there and really get comfortable,” said Pierre coach Steve Steele, “because if he’s comfortable, he doesn’t miss often. It was a good team effort on that side of the ball.”
Trailing by 32 points, the Golden Eagles began to get their feet underneath of them in the middle of the second quarter. It started with some powerful running by Karson Carda.
“We had nothing to lose at that point, basically,” Carda said. “So we just went out and we had fun, put a couple of points on the board and we got momentum, and it just brought us back into the game.”
Carda, who finished with 128 yards rushing, scored twice in the second quarter. He often carried multiple Pierre defenders along with him.
“Our line play is coming together and along with that, Karson Carda does a good job,” Svendsen said. “He’ll get hit but he’s not going to go down with the first guy hitting him. He bounces off and keeps his legs moving. They’ll pile on him and he’ll keep going.”
After Pierre scored in the final minute of the first half, it appeared the Governors had taken the momentum back. However, Central quarterback Sam Rohlfs turned a busted play into a 54-yard scoring strike to Alec Voegele with nine seconds left to get the momentum back.
Rohlfs, who threw for 188 yards, ran for a 17-yard touchdown in the third quarter and connected with Voegele again on a 5-yard TD pass before scoring on a two-point PAT run as Central closed the deficit to 45-35.
“Rohlfs is a special player. He has the ability to bring anyone back,” Steele said. “I was joking with him afterwards. I said how many miles do you think you put on in a game? He’s just all over the place and he’s fast. He gave us a lot of fits. He did a great job finding ways to just will them back into the game. I’m just proud of our team for being able to hold on.”
The Eagles had the ball down 10 points early in the final quarter, but a drive stalled out at midfield. Kienholz then put the game out of reach by firing a 51-yard strike to Matthew Hanson for the final touchdown of the contest.
“I told our kids, ‘You showed some heart, you showed some courage, you showed some grit that you have and we can’t give up on it,’ ” Svendsen said. “Like I said, it comes back to playing a complete game of football. We have to do that against these kind of ballclubs.”
That fact is not lost on Carda, who said the Eagles have the talent, but need to play better at the beginning of games.
“We need to come out faster. We’re just coming out flat half the time,” Carda said. “Once we get to the second quarter we start to pick it up. If we start out better I think we’ll do great against these teams.”
Jack Merkwan led Pierre with 190 yards receiving, while Voegele caught seven passes for 111 yards for Central.
The Eagles, 3-5 on the season, play host to Sioux Falls Roosevelt at 5 p.m. on Thursday in their final regular-season game. That will be followed by Aberdeen Roncalli hosting a playoff contest around 8 p.m.
Pierre 18 21 6 7 – 52
Aberdeen Central 0 20 15 0 – 35
P – Jett Zabel 9 pass from Lincoln Kienholz, 9:45.
P – Jack Merkwan 80 pass from Kienholz, 8:44.
P – Merkwan 25 pass from Kienholz, 5:22.
P – Zabel 28 pass from Kienholz (Matyas Pribyl kick), 11:10.
P – Matthew Hanson 37 pass from Kienholz (Pribyl kick), 10:55.
AC – Karson Carda 5 run (Tayden Brownson kick), 5:41.
AC – Carda 14 run, 1:30
P – Kienholz 3 run (Pribyl kick), :35.5.
AC – Alec Voegele 54 pass from Sam Rohlfs (Brownson kick), :09.0
P – Cade Kaiser 11 pass from Kienholz, 9:30.
AC – Rohlfs 17 run (Brownson kick), 3:31.
AC – Voegele 5 pass from Rohlfs (Rohlfs run), :55.1.
P – Hanson 51 pass from Kienholz (Pribyl kick), 8:11.
OFFENSE: Pierre rushing 22-86 (Kienholz 15-53, Treyton Lewis 7-33), passing 18-28-1 for 377 (Kienholz 17-28-1 for 377), receiving (Merkwan 7-190, Hanson 4-104, Kaiser 3-45, Zabel 3-41), first downs 17; Aberdeen Central rushing 38-148 (Carda 28-128, Rohlfs 10-20), passing 16-35-1 for 188 (Rohlfs 16-35-1 for 188), receiving (Voegele 7-111, Jacob Merxbauer 3-37, Drew Salfrank 4-34, Collin Huff 1-6), first downs 23.
DEFENSE: Pierre, Austin Foley 8 tackles, Zabel 7 tackles, Jaden Flor 6 tackles; Aberdeen Central, Jacob Waltman 5 tackles, Brownson 4 tackles, Will Heinert 3 tackles.
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