Week 12 preview: Sense of Schmehl: Pioneer’s running game to be tested against strong LaVille "D"
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Class 2A, Sectional 34 final: Pioneer (9-2) at LaVille (8-2), 7 p.m.
Prior to last Friday, the Delphi football team had not been shut out in a postseason game since 2000. But they had not faced this Pioneer defense before.
Kooper Kinsler had rushed for 221 yards and three touchdowns in Delphi’s 28-20 win over Lewis Cass in the quarterfinals. The Pioneer defense held Kinsler to just 48 yards in an 18-0 win last week in the semifinals.
Delphi averaged fewer than three yards per carry and had just 148 yards of offense. Delphi quarterback Cade Nelson completed six passes, but Pioneer also sacked him six times.
Oscar Solano had 5.5 tackles for loss and three sacks, and fellow senior Derrick LeGrand had 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
“Especially in that first half, we were able to get multiple guys on him early and often,” Pioneer coach Adam Berry said of the defense on Kinsler. “To be honest, that kind of got Delphi away from that style of offense, and they went to more shotgun and looked to throw it a little bit more and get to the outside a little bit more because we stopped that early. … They played awesome in all phases. They were really the reason why we won.”
Seth Schmehl accounted for more than half of Pioneer’s total offense. Pioneer had 165 yards as a team, and Schmehl had 84 yards rushing, including 44 on one play that helped set up a touchdown.
Schmehl was seventh on the team in rushing yards before his performance against Delphi.
“He’s had bright spots on the defensive side of the ball when he’s rotated in, but he’s never really gotten a true shot on the offensive side of the ball,” Berry said. “Besides end-of-the-game situations where we either have second string in or, when he was younger, JV in, he’s never really gotten to carry the ball. I’m extremely proud of Seth. In the second half, he had huge carries.”
That leaves Pioneer within one win of its seventh sectional title in the last eight years but facing a LaVille defense that is allowing just eight points per game. Pioneer averages 25 points per game, but LaVille allows only eight points per game, and no LaVille opponent has scored more than 14 points against them.
“Everything about their defense is impressive,” Berry said. “They do not have a weak spot on the field. They’re giving up only eight points a game. I don’t care who you are, if you’re only giving up eight points a game, you’re doing something right. Their coach (Will Hostrawser) is always been known for having a great defensive mind, and nothing’s stopping them in 2021. … We’re expecting it to be harder to score in Week 3 and last week. ... If we don’t come out fired up and prepared, it’s going to be a long night for the Panthers.”
Berry also complimented the Lancers’ offense, which is helmed by sophomore quarterback Lucas Plummer and includes junior wide receiver Owen Smith and junior running back Paul DeWitt. He said LaVille exhibits “ball control” while limiting their mistakes. DeWitt gets the “tough yards.”
But Pioneer’s team health could be a determining factor. Fullback-defensive back Brock Robinson missed the Delphi game with a shoulder injury. He’s been practicing, but Berry said he is “questionable.”
LeGrand suffered a knee injury against Delphi. He was held out during a period of time in the fourth quarter with Pioneer ahead, and Berry is expecting him to go against LaVille.
Rylahn Toloza, a sophomore who ran for a career-high 127 yards earlier this year against Hammond Central, is “feeling really great” after not playing against Wabash or Delphi the last two weeks and is expected to play.
Pioneer is 8-0 against LaVille since they became conference rivals in 2015. That includes six regular season wins and wins in a 2017 Class 1A regional and a 2020 Class 2A sectional semifinal.
Pioneer also beat LaVille 12-7 on Sept. 3 in Lakeville.
(Winner plays Andrean-Whiting winner in a Class 2A regional.)