It takes 2A to make a thing go right: Pioneer wins first sectional in higher class
Next up: No. 1 Andrean, 7:30 p.m. Friday at The Pit
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
BREMEN –- Pioneer football coach Adam Berry told his players three words in his postgame talk at Don Bunge Field at Bremen High School Friday that they had been longing to hear: “See ya Monday.”
The meaning of what Berry said was twofold: First, he said “Monday.” That means the players didn’t have to come in for practice on Saturday and could instead go to Muncie to watch their schoolmates play in the Class 1A volleyball state championship match.
And second, he said “See ya.”
Because their season is not yet over. They are having too much fun together to want it to end. And they are sectional champions for the 12th time in school history.
It’s not over because the No. 3 Panthers beat No. 13 Bremen 30-14 to win Class 2A, Sectional 34. The sectional title is their first in Class 2A after 11 Class 1A titles. It’s also their seventh sectional title in the last eight years.
“There have been a couple Saturdays this year where we don't come in and watch film and we don't come in and stretch, lift and swim, so when they hear that, ‘See ya Monday,’ they know they get to sleep in a little bit,” Berry said. “We’ll review and talk about tonight and start preparing on Monday. And so they have really started to enjoy that.
“That’s always the loudest I ever hear them.”
Pioneer improved to 11-1. Bremen finished 9-3.
“It feels amazing,” senior two-way starter Tyler Gaumer said. “We did this our freshman and
sophomore years in 1A, and now it feels good to be in 2A … and just showing people that we can still play up. It doesn’t matter who we have out there. It really comes from just how tight our whole team is. Our bond is … I’ve never had a team like this. I can rely on them for everything, and I love it.”
Said junior wide receiver-outside linebacker Logan Smith: “Honestly we’re just all really good friends,” Smith said. “We all love each other. Mostly team camaraderie. We just want to play together. We don’t want the season to be over with.”
Pioneer will host top-ranked Andrean at The Pit in the regional at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Andrean defeated Rensselaer 28-14 to win Sectional 33. Andrean is the defending regional
With their wing-T offense opening holes for Ezra Lewellen and Addai Lewellen to charge through, Pioneer scored the first 16 points of the game and never trailed.
Ezra Lewellen ran 14 times for 149 yards and two touchdowns, and Addai Lewellen ran for 110 yards and a score on nine carries. Ezra Lewellen also had a pair of two-point conversion runs, and Addai Lewellen had a reception for a two-point conversion.
Freshman quarterback Cayden Hill completed only one pass, but it went for 17 yards and a touchdown to Logan Smith with 5:12 left.
While Pioneer won, they did not come out of it unscathed. Junior fullback-defensive back
Brock Robinson suffered a collarbone injury on an interception return with 10:26 left in the first half and did not return. He left at halftime to get his injury X-rayed.
“Luckily we have two young gentlemen with the last name Lewellen,” Berry said.
The Lewellen brothers bore the brunt of the Pioneer offense after Robinson’s injury. Of the 23 offensive plays Pioneer ran after Robinson left, 19 of them were carries for either Ezra or Addai.
Blake Dingus had 123 yards rushing on 26 carries for Bremen. Hunter Bennitt ran for 42 yards and a touchdown and also had 42 yards receiving.
Zach Czarnecki’s only reception was a leaping grab in the back left corner of the end zone and went for five yards and a touchdown, capping off a 42-yard Lion drive to start the second half after Pioneer attempted but failed to recover an onside kick and committed a personal foul penalty.
But Bremen was called for an illegal substitution penalty on the subsequent two-point conversion attempt, and Bremen quarterback Ethan Nunemaker’s pass fell incomplete to keep the deficit at two possessions.
Pioneer then answered with a seven-play, 47-yard drive after Pioneer’s Caleb Sweet fell on Bremen’s onside kick attempt.
On third-and-4 from the Bremen 8, Ezra Lewellen sprung outside for a score to make it 22-6.
After another clock-melting, 12-play Bremen drive ended in a punt, Pioneer drove 69 yards in 10 plays while taking more than five minutes off the clock themselves.
Hill and Addai Lewellen each had 12-yard runs on the drive before Hill rolled out on a bootleg to the left and found Smith, who was open after a Bremen defender slipped. After the two-point conversion, Pioneer led 30-6.
“We weren’t passing it at all, so we figured they might not be expecting a pass, so it was just open, he threw it, and it worked,” Smith said.
Pioneer scored on the opening possession when Addai Lewellen scored on a 48-yard run, bowling over a Bremen defender who got in his way. Ezra Lewellen’s two-point conversion run made it 8-0.
“It was just great blocking,” Addai said. “Our line blocked it well, and there was just a big gap there. So it was really amazing. They came out strong, and they knew we had to block well to win this game, and they really did it.”
Pioneer won the coin toss and elected to receive. Berry said it’s something he’s done since Jack Kiser’s senior season in 2018 as a way to get early momentum. He said the play call came after a suggestion from assistant coaches in the press box.
“They were telling me what the defense was lined up in,” Berry said. “Addai made a couple great moves, and then when he got open field, he used his speed. It was great to see him get going early. In the past, it’s been Ezra or Brock going early. It’s good to see Addai do that.”
Addai Lewellen’s touchdown came with 8:40 left in the quarter. Bremen then controlled the ball for a marathon 21-play trek that included two fourth-down conversions and a controversial inadvertent whistle on a fourth-and-two play from the Pioneer 13.
Nunemaker scrambled out of the pocket and appeared to get a first down before a Pioneer player came out of the scrum with the ball and ran the other direction. As that was happening, the official blew his whistle.
Officials gathered and then determined that the whistle was blown inadvertently. (A local TV news crew filming the game showed that Nunemaker clearly fumbled.) They put the ball back on the 13 and gave Bremen another fourth-and-two chance. This time, Dingus converted on a 3-yard run on the last play of the first quarter.
Bremen couldn’t take advantage of the break. Pioneer finally got the ball back on Robinson’s interception.
Two plays later, Ezra Lewellen took a counter through the hole between the center and right guard for a 57-yard touchdown run. His two-point conversion made it 16-0.
“Vision is something that you can’t teach,” Berry said. “Our running backs have tremendous vision, and you see it in practice, and it pays off in the game. You can tell them where the hole is going to be. You can walk it out, but if they see something and they can take advantage, we have full faith in those guys.”
In a matter of eight offensive snaps, Pioneer had scored more points on the Bremen defense than any Bremen opponent had in the last eight games.
Meanwhile, the defense stood its ground against the burly 215-pound Dingus.
“He’s big,” Smith said of trying to tackle Dingus. “It didn’t feel good. I’m not going to lie.”
Pioneer 30, Bremen 14
Pioneer 8 8 6 8 – 30
Bremen 0 0 6 8 – 14
PIO – Addai Lewellen 48 run (Ezra Lewellen run)
PIO – Ezra Lewellen 57 run (Ezra Lewellen run)
BRE – Zach Czarnecki 5 pass from Ethan Nunemaker (pass failed)
PIO – E. Lewellen 8 run (run failed)
PIO – Logan Smith 17 pass from Cayden Hill (A. Lewellen pass from Hill)
BRE – Hunter Bennitt 3 run (Grant Kauffman run)
The Pioneer football team beat Bremen 30-14 Friday to win the Class 2A, Sectional 34 title.
Watch full game here: