Pierz playmaker Matthias Algarin entered the postgame news conference with a paper drinking cup in his teeth, his helmet in his right hand and the Class 3A Prep Bowl championship trophy in his left.
Algarin's hands were full throughout the top-ranked Pioneers' 28-27 escape from unranked Dassel-Cokato on Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium. He rushed for a game-high 165 yards and three touchdowns, caught two passes for 44 yards, made five tackles on defense and returned two kicks.
Whatever it took for Pierz (14-0) to claim its fourth Prep Bowl title. The others came in 2004, 2015 and 2017.
Algarin, a senior and a preferred walk-on for the Nebraska football and track and field teams, shined brightest on the Pioneers' go-ahead scoring drive in the fourth quarter.
Facing fourth-and-1, Algarin delivered a 3-yard run. On the next play, quarterback Peter Schommer threw a ball right into Algarin's midsection for a 22-yard advance to the Chargers' 3-yard line. Two plays later, Algarin scored with 38 seconds left in the game.
"That's what he does," Pierz coach Dan Saehr said. "The kid's a playmaker."
The clutch catch stood out for Algarin.
"Peter put up a great ball and I just had to do what I had to do to get both my hands on it," Algarin said. "It felt amazing to come down with it. Right away I looked over at my teammates because we worked the last six years for this moment."
The feeling propelled him to score the go-ahead touchdown, which in turn inspired the defense to stop one final possession by Dassel-Cokato (10-4).
In the first half there was no stopping the Chargers, especially Eli Gillman. He converted all four times he was involved in fourth-down plays, and scored two touchdowns — one rushing and one receiving.
"We knew they were a really good team and we had to make the most out of every drive, and for the most part we did that," Chargers coach Ryan Weinandt said.
Two incomplete passes, a Pierz sack, and one more failed pass ended the final Dassel-Cokato drive at its own 34.
"We just played with heart," Algarin said. "The whole last quarter came down to who was going to play with heart."