ROYAL CENTER — ROYAL CENTER — Pioneer was in an extremely unusual position of being out of a football game at halftime against Lafayette Central Catholic in their sectional showdown Friday night.
“I was telling coach [John] Bingaman at the sidelines that I don’t remember the last time that happened,” Pioneer coach Mike Johnson said. “They’re just dominating.”
The Knights jumped out to a 31-0 lead at halftime and went on to a convincing 47-6 win at The Pit. The two-time defending state champions look well on their way to a third straight state title after dominating the second-ranked team in Class A.
“It was a mismatch, a big mismatch,” Johnson said. “Wow, unbelievable. They’re certainly good, very, very good. Better than what we thought. We didn’t think that we’d play that poorly, but they just dominated us, dominating. It could have been anything they wanted it to be.”
Many Pioneer fans were discussing the fairness of the ballgame at halftime and after the game. The Indiana Football Coaches Association has a proposal that needs approval from athletic directors and principals before it goes to the IHSAA. The proposal includes a “tradition factor” that in effect would bump Central Catholic up to Class 2A because of its dominance in Class A in recent years.
“That might pass,” Johnson said. “But I don’t know if that’s the discussion for now, but that might get done.”
The Panthers (9-1) didn’t have a bad start to the game. They forced a fourth-and-6 at their 35-yard line on the first drive of the game, but the Knights (10-0) faked a pass in the flat to Purdue recruit Danny Anthrop, and quarterback Austin Munn hit Timmy Mills with a perfect pass in the end zone to make it 7-0.
On their first possession the Panthers moved the ball with a couple first downs, but on fourth-and-5 from the LCC 35-yard line they were stuffed on a run play.
Pioneer forced a fourth-and-12 from its 33-yard line, but Munn hit Anthrop on a post pattern for a 32-yard gainer that set up a Munn TD plunge that made it 14-0.
After that it was all LCC. The Knights’ depth, speed on the outside and passing game were again too much for the Panthers for the third straight year in sectional play. And they were able to more than hold their own in the trenches, as they shut down Pioneer’s offense the rest of the way.
The Panthers finally broke loose with a good touchdown drive, but it was against LCC’s second-team defense with the score 47-0. Joey Miller, who led the area in rushing this year despite missing three-and-a-half games, broke free for a big gainer that set up his 1-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter. After that Pioneer emptied its bench like LCC did late in the third.
All in all it was another successful season for the Panthers.
“It was a strong team. Midwest Conference champs, 9-0, beat Judson and Cass outside the conference,” Johnson said. “We didn’t know we were going to be 9-0 at the beginning of the year. We thought we’d have some growing pains, be pretty good at the end. But this was a good team.”
The Panthers enter next season having won 40 MWC games in a row and 71 out of 72.
“We’ve got a good group of juniors coming back, eight of them. They all played, so a real good core and almost all our entire backfield is back on the offensive side. And they’re smart group and I’m sure they’ll work hard at it,” Johnson said.