Week 11 preview: Game moved to Logansport, but Pioneer’s defensive job remains same:
Get Kinsler to turf
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Class 2A, Sectional 34 semifinal at Logansport: Delphi (7-3) vs. Pioneer (8-2), 7 p.m.
Pioneer had two 100-yard running backs in last week’s 40-14 win over Wabash, yet neither of them was Brock Robinson, who actually leads the team in rushing yards with 763.
Rather, the two 100-yard backs were Beau Mersch, who ran for 120 yards including a 52-yard touchdown run on a counter on Pioneer’s first possession, and Cayden Hill, who ran for 116 yards and two touchdowns.
But having said that, the big play might have been a 29-yard touchdown pass from Caleb Sweet to Logan Smith on the final play from scrimmage in the first half. That upped Pioneer’s halftime lead to 26-7.
“Huge,” Berry said. “They get a score. They get the ball back at half. … They actually recovered an onside kick after their touchdown, but they added an illegal procedure penalty, so we got the ball back, or it could have been a totally different game going into half with them having all the momentum. You know, we took advantage of that penalty and came up with a huge play to give us a little more cushion going into halftime.”
Robinson left with a shoulder injury against Wabash, and coach Adam Berry has pronounced him “questionable” for this week’s game against Delphi.
In addition to his fullback duties, he is also one of Pioneer’s top defensive backs.
Pioneer might need all the defensive help they can get when facing Delphi and running back Kooper Kinsler this week. Kinsler ran for a career-high 221 yards and three touchdowns in the Oracles’ 28-20 win over Lewis Cass last week in the quarterfinals.
Tristin Isley added 90 yards rushing, and he is also a top defensive player at linebacker.
But it’s stopping Kinsler’s max-effort running style that could be a key for the Panthers.
“He’s definitely been a focal point.” Berry said of Kinsler. “He actually wears a lineman number back there. He wears 54. I told Caleb Sweet we probably could have just kept you at 58 at quarterback. But he’s a heck of a runner. You see a number 54 back there, and you’re thinking, That’s interesting, bu then you watch him on film, and he hits that hole just as hard if not harder than running backs we have seen this year. So he’s a handful back there. He’s a 5-10, 190-pound running back that wears number 54. You can watch on film he’ll drive his knees. You’ll see the defense actually pulling on his jersey, and they’re on skis. So it’s definitely going to take a group effort from our defense to get him down.”
Pioneer defeated Delphi 38-8 in last year’s sectional quarterfinals. Pioneer is 4-1 all-time against Delphi. The only loss occurred in 1994.
This game has been moved from Pioneer to Logansport due to poor field conditions at The Pit. Pioneer beat Monroe Central and Adams Central in the 2017 and 2018 semistates, respectively, at Logansport.
(Winner plays Bremen-LaVille winner in the sectional final on Nov. 5.)