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Class C-1: Brahmer's record-setting night powers Pierce past Aurora in battle of unbeatens

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Pierce vs. Aurora, 11.22

Pierce players hold the trophy after defeating Aurora in the Class C-1 state championship game Tuesday at Memorial Stadium.

From playing catch when they were 2 feet tall to feeling 10 feet tall. 

That was Pierce receiver Ben Brahmer and quarterback Abram Scholting Tuesday night at Memorial Stadium, with the former setting a state record on passes from the latter to lead the Bluejays past Aurora 42-14 for the Class C-1 state title in a battle of unbeatens at Memorial Stadium.

Brahmer, a Husker football commit who is also considering Iowa State, set the Nebraska 11-man record for receiving yards in a playoff game, finishing with 11 catches for 249 yards and three touchdowns.

Brahmer and Scholting batted 1.000 Tuesday, with senior quarterback finding his favorite receiver 11 times in 11 targets.

"We’ve been throwing together since we were like 2-foot tall. So it means a lot," Brahmer said after the game. "We’ve put a lot of work in in the offseasons and the hot weather so we can play in the cold weather."

It wasn't all that cold — pretty ideal weather, actually — for one of the most anticipated of the six games at Memorial Stadium to start the week.

Aurora (12-1) and Pierce (13-0) spent the entire season at No. 1 and No. 2 in the rankings, watching from afar as the other dominated the competition week in and week out.

And for a half, the game was living up to expectations. The teams went into the halftime locker room tied at 14 after Pierce scored with 12 seconds left in the second quarter to pull even.

From there, it was all Bluejays. A Pierce defense that had been overlooked most of the season forced a three-and-out to start the half, and eight plays after an Aurora punt, Scholting found Brahmer for a 46-yard catch-and-run to give the Jays the lead and leave Aurora trailing in a game for the first time all season.

"If you can put a little doubt in somebody's mind all of a sudden, they can possibly panic. I don't know if they did that because they're so well coached," Pierce coach Mark Brahmer said. "But we just told our guys, in a battle like that, it's a 10-round boxing match. You've just to jab and keep moving."

And know when to throw the haymaker.

The Bluejays made it a two-score game on Colby Anderson's wingback pass to Addison Croghan. Then Ben Brahmer picked off Aurora quarterback Drew Knust on Aurora's first play after the touchdown, and Keenan Valverde scored six plays later.

The exclamation point came in the closing minutes, when Scholting connected with Brahmer for a 75-yard touchdown that set the receiving record.

"I love my Benny boy, and we've been throwing and catching for a long time," an emotional Mark Brahmer said of his son. "Fortunately we've got guys up front to protect Abram, and we've got other guys that are great receivers, too."

While Pierce's offense found its footing, Aurora operated at less than full capacity. Standout running back Carlos Collazo, who missed multiple games late in the regular season and early in the playoffs, limped off the field late in the second quarter and later returned with his right ankle taped.

Collazo was held to 94 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, less than half his per-game average, to finish his senior season with 2,024 yards.

"Obviously Carlos wasn’t himself tonight. And he’s a big part of what we’ve tried to accomplish, and we became a little bit one-dimensional and they feasted on that," Aurora coach Kyle Peterson said.

Pierce, in its fourth consecutive final, won its second title in that span to go with a 2020 championship.

Aurora, meanwhile, finished second for the third straight year while playing its fourth final in five seasons.

"It’s a tremendous feeling. I told these kids before, winning a state championship, there’s no other feeling. Getting married is a big day, having your children is a big day, you catch a nice big walleye, that’s a big day," Mark Brahmer said.

"But I’m telling you, winning this kind of thing in this big stadium, it’s a tremendous feeling."

Contact the writer at cbasnett@journalstar.com or 402-473-7436. On Twitter @ChrisBasnettLJS.

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