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State Football: Paynesville strikes early, often

Paynesville's Zach Schroeder is tackled by a Pillager defender in Friday's Class AA state tournament quarterfinal against Pillager at Viking Bank Stadium in Alexandria. Jake Schultz / Tribune1 / 5
Paynesville running back Daltin Christinsen finds room to run in Friday's Class AA state tournament quarterfinal against Pillager at Viking Bank Stadium in Alexandria. Jake Schultz / Tribune2 / 5
Paynesville's Levi Bast (10) tackles a Pillager receiver in Friday's Class AA state tournament quarterfinal against Pillager at Viking Bank Stadium in Alexandria. Jake Schultz / Tribune3 / 5
Paynesville's Zach Schroeder breaks past the line in Friday's Class AA state tournament quarterfinal against Pillager at Viking Bank Stadium in Alexandria. Jake Schultz / Tribune4 / 5
Paynesville's Max Weidner breaks a tackle in Friday's Class AA state tournament quarterfinal against Pillager at Viking Bank Stadium in Alexandria. Jake Schultz / Tribune5 / 5

ALEXANDRIA — It didn't take long for Paynesville to put points on the board Friday night. And once they did it once, they made it a trend.

Paynesville rolled to a 52-14 victory over Pillager to open the Class AA state tournament at VIking Bank Stadium in Alexandria, dominating the ground game in a frigid state quarterfinal.

The Bulldogs will advance to the semifinal round for a rematch against Caledonia Thursday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Paynesville scored quickly and often, relying almost exclusively on the run game. Quarterback Max Weidner scored the first touchdown of the game with a short run up the middle to put the Bulldogs up 8-0 and running backs Zach Schroeder and Grady Fuchs each added scores in the first half as well for a 24-8 halftime score. The Bulldogs ran wild as a team for 537 yards but Christinsen was particularly efficient, running 11 times for 202 yards and a touchdown in the third quarter. Schroeder, meanwhile, ran 16 times for 152 yards and a trio of touchdowns.

"I was seeing the line making holes for me all night and our backs and receivers were running with us and blocking the whole way," Christinsen said. "When I'm running I try to make the most out of runs and make sure the first guy doesn't take me down. I just keep my legs trucking."

Pillager, the Section 6AA representative, entered the game with a 10-1 record and bounced back with a Tucker Peterson rushing touchdown to tie things up in the first quarter. That's as close as the game would get, though.

Paynesville went on a 44-0 run before Pillager added a garbage time touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.

"We take a lot of pride in the teams we play during the season and the schedule we play so we felt we could present things they haven't seen," said Paynesville head coach Max Meagher. "Our offensive line played really well and the backs ran hard."

Pillager ran a wing formation, something the Bulldogs haven't seen all year, and struggled to get past a fast Paynesville defense. The defensive line won the battle in the trenches and the linebacking corps excelled at pushing the Huskies to the sidelines. Pillager finished the game with just 217 yards, 186 of which came on the ground.

"We hadn't seen a lot of what they run before but our guys were able to adjust well," Meagher said. "Our guys stayed disciplined and played smart."

Weidner was knocked from the game late in the second quarter with a leg injury, all but ending his senior season.

"It was tough on all the guys," Meagher said of his quarterback, who didn't throw a pass in the first half. "As good a player as he is, he's an even better leader and better person. He just wanted to play and that's what our kids needed to do. It's a damper on a big night because of who he is and what he does but championship programs battle adversity. Max is already a champion."

Fuchs took control from under center and helped a Bulldog team rally around their quarterback. From that moment, Paynesville outscored Pillager 28-6. Fuchs finished the night with five carries for 38 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Josh Kranz added to the scoring with a 59-yard rushing touchdown with his only carry of the game.

Class AA

Quarterfinals

Paynesville 52,

Pillager 14

Pillager (10-2) 8 0 0 6 — 14

Paynesville (9-2) 16 8 20 8 — 52

Scoring Plays

Pay — Max Weidner 10 run (Luke Johnson run)

Pill — Tucker Peterson 26 run (Peterson run)

Pay — Grady Fuchs 5 run (Fuchs run)

Pay — Zach Schroeder 1 run (Weidner run)

Pay — Daltin Christinsen 20 run (Christinsen run)

Pay — Schroeder 12 run (pass failed)

Pay — Schroeder 7 run (pass failed)

Pay — Josh Kranz 59 run (Fuchs run)

Pill — Peterson 29 run (pass failed)

Pillager

First downs: NA ... Penalties: NA ... Rushing (Individual and team): Tucker Peterson 19-109, Jack Bentson 4-9, Luke Woidyla 21-64, Hunter Gjovik 1-6, Erik Peterson 2(-6), Ethan Berndt 1-2. 49-186 ... Passing (Individual and team): Erik Peterson 2-10-31-1 ... Receiving (Individual and team): Spencer Schaefer 1-1, Woidyla 1-12, T Peterson 1-18 ... Interceptions: NA ... Fumble recoveries: NA ... Tackles (solo-assist): NA ... QB sacks: NA

Paynesville

First downs: x ... Penalties: x-x ... Rushing (Individual and team): Schroeder 15-123, Christinsen 11-202, Kranz 1-59, Weidner 8-68, Grady Fuchs 5-38, Blake Hiltner 1-(-1), Tanner Stanley 2-(-13), Drew Tangen 1-5, Craig Schmitz 1-18. 48-537 ... Passing (Individual and team): Fuchs 2-7-11-1 ... Receiving (Individual and team): Schroeder 1-3, Sam Oehrlein 1-8 ... Interceptions: x ... Fumble recoveries: x ... Tackles (solo-assist): x ... QB sacks: x

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