Pioneer’s sectional win over Carroll last week could be a good barometer of how far the Panthers have come since the start of the season.
The Panthers are hoping that improvement shows through with a sectional championship tonight.
The Class A No. 9 Panthers (9-2) travel to Frontier (3-8) for the Sectional 42 championship.
A year ago a more veteran Panthers squad had to fight tooth and nail after a slow start in a 35-21 sectional win over Carroll. Last week the young Panthers handed the Cougars a 41-6 defeat with many of those same Carroll players on the field.
While the Panthers have maintained a high-scoring offense throughout their current nine-game win streak, it’s been their defense that has stepped up of late and has returned them to their dominating ways on the gridiron.
“Defensively we have gotten better the last two and a half ballgames,” Pioneer coach Mike Johnson said. “We gave up 30 points in the first half to West Central and only gave up a touchdown in the second half. We gave up a touchdown against Seeger and a touchdown against Carroll. Hopefully it’s a sign of good things to come for us on defense.”
The Cougars had been playing their best football of the season before running into the red-hot Panthers. Carroll had its starting quarterback back in Jared Miller and No. 1 receiver Brandon Dillon was able to move back to his more natural position.
“We needed to know where [Dillon] was at on the field. He’s a big target and a great athlete,” Johnson said. “Hats off to our defensive coordinator [John Bingaman]. We had a couple different coverages we played against [Dillon] and I certainly think it worked.
“We were concerned going in about their power running game. For the most part we did a good job of stopping that. We knew they could throw the ball downfield and get big completions and we limited them in that aspect.”