Pioneer’s football team had its struggles offensively the first two weeks of the season. But the Panthers have exploded for 66 and 62 points the last two weeks in wins over South Newton and Caston.
The Panthers (2-2) will see how they stack up against the North Judson Bluejays (2-2) tonight in a 7:30 p.m. game at the Pit.
“They are a very physical ballclub. They are big and strong,” Pioneer coach Mike Johnson said of the Bluejays. “Their new coach, Kirk Kennedy, coached at Lowell and won a state title and had a couple runner-ups. He’s brought a power running game that fits their personnel. They had a big win over an undefeated Boone Grove team last week and got some injured players back. It’ll be a real test for us.”
The Panthers and Bluejays will soon be conference opponents, maybe as soon as in two years.
Johnson said the newly formed conference will be named the Hoosier North Athletic Conference. West Central was admitted into the conference on Thursday. There are currently nine schools in the league and Johnson said they will be looking for a 10th. He added there will be a press conference on Oct. 9 in Culver.
The Panthers are coming off a 62-28 win at Caston.
“On the offensive side we have been playing better. We’re executing better,” Johnson said. “Hopefully we continue to get better, our young o-linemen get better. Our backs have to run hard and protect the football.
“Defensively we have to find a way to get some stops. We haven’t had enough of them. We have to have a few [tonight] to be successful.”
Tri-County (1-3, 1-2 MWC) at Winamac (4-0, 3-0 MWC)
The Class A No. 3 Warriors host the Cavaliers for homecoming.
The Cavaliers are coming off their first win of the season, a 36-16 decision over Frontier.
“They’ve got some kids back healthy and obviously they’re playing better. They’ll come to town hoping for an upset and do everything they can to get it,” Winamac coach Tim Roth said. “They’ve got good size up front. They’re mammoth. We’ll have our hands full in the trenches to move those guys. It’s the Woody Hayes Theory, if you can’t run through them, run around them. Make those big boys run from sideline to sideline.”
The Warriors are coming off a 59-6 win at South Newton. They are averaging 51.3 ppg and allowing just 7 for the season.
Tyler Katschke has rushed for 527 yards and nine TDs to lead the Warriors. Parker Fox has rushed for 329 yards and five TDs and passed for 307 yards and five TDs. Sean Lynch is the leading receiver with five catches for 160 yards and three TDs.
The Warriors dropped from No. 1 to No. 2 in this week’s coaches’ poll despite the lopsided win over South Newton. Roth was unsure why.
“That’s a good question. We score 59 and give up 6. That’s a difference of 53. I don’t know,” he said.
Linton-Stockton, which is also ranked No. 1 in the AP poll, leapfrogged the Warriors in the coaches’ poll after a 45-14 win over winless West Vigo, a Class 3A school.
“If we win we’ll be happy if we’re ranked 1, 2 or 5 or whatever,” Roth said. “In the 15th week of the season is when we want to be No. 1.”
Caston (1-3) at Carroll (1-3)
The Cougars opened the season with a 37-0 win over Tri-County but have since dropped three straight to Delphi, Tri-Central and Sheridan.
They’re facing a Comets squad coming off a high-scoring loss to Pioneer.
“We have to tackle somebody to be able to win a ballgame,” Caston coach Chris Ulerick said. “Until we do that it’ll be tough for our kids to win.
“We couldn’t have stopped water from going through a street door. It wasn’t just our team. That was as bad of a Pioneer defense as I’ve ever seen, too.”
One issue the Comets will have to deal with is a size advantage for the Cougars.
“They’re bigger than we are but who isn’t,” Ulerick said. “They’re bigger and probably faster. We’re going to have to play well.”
Ulerick is looking for his squad to be more defensive-minded.
“Last Friday was a fluke. It’s not the way both teams like to play football,” he said. “We obviously want to play defense a lot better than we are right now. If they don’t understand my frustrations they need to have a check up. They know that I’m frustrated with them. The biggest thing is we’ve got to play better football, plain and simple.”
Logansport (0-4, 0-2 NCC) at Marion (1-3, 0-1 NCC)
The Berries can take a lot of positives after last week’s 29-28 loss to Anderson.
In fact coach Brad Urban would argue that it should have been a 28-26 win if the referees would have restarted the clock at the proper time instead of allowing Anderson to kick a game-winning field goal as time expired.
Fullback Jacob Shelton rushed for 103 yards and three touchdowns for the Berries, and it was his second straight 100-yard rushing game. The Berries rushed for 296 yards as a team.
“Obviously we were able to move the ball better, especially in the first half,” Urban said. “Obviously we would have liked to have moved the ball as well in the second half. They made some adjustments, and we countered them and had one drive there at the start of the fourth quarter.
“Our defense played much better than it did against Huntington North and against Peru. Our special teams played much better last week as well. It was a step in the right direction. We played better, we’ve just got to finish.”
Shelton left the game late against Anderson with a shoulder injury and is questionable for tonight. Austin Gaby and Jacob Brown will likely see some time at fullback.
Marion has a 33-10 win over New Castle and a 48-6 loss to Richmond. The Giants are led by junior Will Collins, who has posted huge games against the Berries in the last two years.
“Obviously Marion has speed. The Collins kid plays running back and wide receiver,” Urban said. “The biggest thing when you play against speed is you have to attack that speed. You can’t sit back and be soft. You have to attack them and make them make the first cut and rally to the football. It’ll be a team effort.”
Marion has a new coach this year and shows more looks on offense, Urban said.
“We’ll see a little bit of everything. They’ll run pistol, we’ll see their T-formation, they’ll run the I. They’re not big, but they’re very athletic and more than capable,” he said.
PERU (4-0, 2-0 MIC) AT CASS (1-3, 0-2 MIC)
At 4-0, Peru is putting 12 straight losing seasons in the rear-view mirror. Peru already has topped the win totals from those seasons.
“It’s something our kids haven’t experienced before,” third-year coach Bob Prescott said of the early success. “I think they’ve handled it really well. They’ve done everything that we’ve asked of them.”
The Bengal Tigers went 0-10 and 3-7 in Prescott’s first two seasons, paving the way for the 4-0 breakout. Prescott noted a deep roster is paying dividends.
“We’re starting 22 kids this year,” he said. “As our numbers have grown the last couple years, we felt it was important to find a way to get as many guys on the field as possible. The kids have bought into it. We feel good about things. Obviously, this is a huge test for us [tonight]. We have all the respect in the world for [Cass’] program.”
Peru’s 4-0 start has come against opponents with a combined 1-15 record.
The road is considerably tougher the rest of the way, starting with the perennially tough Kings.
“We’re getting ready to go through the top five teams in the standings in our conference from last year so there’s no question it gets tougher,” Prescott said, noting the Kings’ aggressive defense and wing-T offense are big challenges this week.
Cass is just 1-3, but its opponents have a combined 12-4 record.
The Kings showed good fight in a 28-20 loss to defending MIC champion Hamilton Heights last week.
“I like to think we’re making progress. This will be a good test for us [tonight], though,” Cass coach Scott Mannering said.
The Tigers are averaging an area-best 48.8 points per game. Running backs Michael Richardson and Steven McBride rank 1-2 in the Kokomo area in scoring and 2-3 in rushing.
“They’re 4-0 and they’re averaging close to 50 points per game. We’re not doing either of those things,” Mannering said. “Their two halfbacks have some just unbelievable stats for the first month of the season. I think their quarterback, [Nolan] Brimbury, runs the option very well and he throws the ball well, which makes it hard to defend. They’re getting good play out of their fullback and their offensive line as well. That’s one side. Defensively, they attack the ball. They’re just playing very good football right now.
“We have to play better defense. We have to play smarter and tougher, make some stops and get off the field more,” Mannering added. “Offensively, we have to drive the ball better. Hopefully it will be a good matchup. We’re hoping we’ve improved over the last seven days.”
Cass rolled to a 63-0 win when the teams met last year, improving to 15-0 on the field against Peru since the Tigers joined the MIC in 1998. The Kings had to forfeit their 1999 win for using an ineligible player for a few plays late in a 34-6 win.