Week 11 football preview: Can Pioneer’s offense run ‘counter’ to strong LaVille defense?
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Class 2A, Sectional 34 semifinal: Pioneer (9-1) at LaVille (6-1), 7 p.m.
While No. 3 Pioneer ran away from Delphi 38-8 last week in the quarterfinals, it wasn’t so routine at first.
Pioneer converted a fourth down in their own territory in the first quarter on their first drive, and the drive eventually ended with Ezra Lewellen running 53 yards for a touchdown on a counter.
On Pioneer’s second drive, Addai Lewellen ran 79 yards for a touchdown on a counter.
The misdirection plays put Delphi’s aggressive defense on its heels.
“They were extremely aggressive, and I’d say they played a lot harder than even what we saw on film,” Pioneer coach Adam Berry said. “It is sectional time, and that is to be expected. They got us down to a fourth down on that series and barely picked it up.
“They were very aggressive, and I guess I wouldn’t necessarily say they caught us off-guard by that. Like I said, we did notice that they played hard while watching film, but they even kicked it up another notch against us. … But I think our counter game did slow that down a little bit and open up some other things for us.”
Pioneer finished with 479 yards on the ground for a 10.4 yard-per-carry average.
Meanwhile, the Pioneer defense held Delphi running back Evan Fritz to a season-low 81 yards rushing. While Fritz did have a 50-yard touchdown run in the second half, Pioneer was well ahead by that point.
“We knew they were going to try to get him going,” Berry said. “I want to say our ... starting defense allowed only 19 yards from him. That’s just tremendous. Anytime you can stop close to a 2,000-yard rusher for those kind of yards, you know that our defense is doing something right. Once again, it wasn’t like one guy necessarily stood out. It’s just our guys were playing fast and reading the keys and just following what the defensive coaches told them all week and it paid off for us.”
This week, Pioneer takes on a LaVille team coming off a 27-0 win over Lewis Cass last week. For LaVille, that avenged a loss to Lewis Cass in last year’s sectional final.
Both sophomore Paul DeWitt and senior Andrew Dill ran for over 100 yards in the win over Lewis Cass.
As a team, LaVille had over 300 yards rushing and averaged eight yards per carry.
“Any way they can get him the ball,” Berry answered when asked how LaVille deploys Dill. “Just a fantastic athlete. I remember watching him in junior high track. It was always a photo finish in the 100 and 200 against Ezra and Addai. You saw from an early age he was a great athlete. … They just try to get him the ball whatever way they can. They’ll put him out at spread end or wide receiver and try to get him the ball. They’ll put him in the backfield and try to get him some run plays, some counter plays. And they’ve also shown some wildcat with him. We;re going to have our eyes on him. He’s a player where when he touches the ball, he can go to the house at any point because of, for one, his football ability and just his speed and quickness.”
Defensively, LaVille has allowed only two offensive touchdowns in their last three games combined. Senior Ayden Doyle is back from an early knee injury and stars at linebacker.
“They play defense similar to ours,” Berry said. “They got their senior back in Doyle. I think he even got hurt before the season even started, but he’s starting to get in there more. I think he started playing a little bit against North Judson (on Oct. 9), and he’s getting more reps, and he’s a difference maker on the defensive side of the ball. Just watching him the last couple years, you always had to know where he is because he does a great job coming off that outside linebacker position and just creating havoc. If we don’t do a good blocking him when we run to his side, it’s going to be a long night for us.”
Berry also praised LaVille’s defensive line and said that they are capable of knocking back an opposing offensive line.
Though they are rivals in the Hoosier North, this is their first meeting of the year. Their regular season meeting was canceled after LaVille had to shut down school activities through the first three weeks of the football season.
Pioneer won 36-14 at LaVille last year and is 6-0 against LaVille all time. Pioneer beat LaVille 38-0 in a Class 1A regional in 2017 in their most recent postseason meeting.
The winner meets the Bremen-Wabash winner in the sectional final. If Pioneer beats LaVille, the sectional final will also be on the road.