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  • Val T.

Week 14 football preview: Pioneer defense will hope that Clark misses mark in semistate


Sports Editor, RTC

Class 2A semistate: Pioneer (12-1) at Fort Wayne Luers (7-6), 7:30 p.m.

As the Pioneer football team keeps winning games, practices become a little shorter.

This is coach Adam Berry’s fourth semistate in five years as coach, and he acknowledged that last week’s 24-21 regional win over Andrean was physical.

Though COVID-19 has had differing impacts throughout the state, Pioneer never lost a game. They and Fort Wayne Luers, their semistate opponent this Friday, are two of only eight teams in the state playing their 14th game of the season.

Not even in the NFL or major college football do teams play in 14 consecutive weeks.

“In August, we’re doing a lot more individual work with our specific position grouping,” Berry said. “As the season goes on, we try to limit that a little bit. Football is obviously a high-contact sport, and (there are) a lot of bumps and bruises this time of year. So we try to limit practice time or shorten practice time as the year goes on.

“Come tournament time, if we’re seeing a team where we’re not used to their style, we might add in a little bit more individual (work) to get us refocused, but we try to have practice a little bit shorter if we can this time of year,” Berry said.

While Andrean’s football history – 19 sectionals, nine regionals, six semistates and two state titles – might be impressive, Fort Wayne Luers’ gridiron accomplishments might be considered towering, especially among football programs outside the Indianapolis metropolitan area. Including this year, the Knights have won 25 sectionals, 20 regionals, 15 semistates and 11 state titles. That includes a state title four-peat from 2009-12.

The 15 semistates are tied for the most in state history. (Indianapolis Chatard, who travels to Mishawaka Marian in the 3A semistate Friday, is also seeking their 16th semistate.)

Matt Lindsay coached Luers to nine of their 11 state titles before the school fired him abruptly in September 2012 for “violations of school and diocesan policies.”

Steve Keefer stepped in on an interim basis and coached the Knights to the 2012 state title. In January 2013, Kyle Lindsay, who is Matt Lindsay’s son, was hired as the permanent coach after spending six seasons on his father’s coaching staff.

Kyle Lindsay was a quarterback for Luers state-title winning teams in 1999 and 2001 and an assistant on five other state-title winning teams.

Two current NFL players – Austin Mack of the New York Giants and Jaylon Smith of the Dallas Cowboys – are Luers grads. In addition, Kevin Keirmaier, the center fielder for the American League champion Tampa Bay Rays, is a Luers grad who turned down Division I football scholarship offers to pursue a baseball career.

Fort Wayne Luers went 3-6 during the regular season with all nine games coming against teams in higher classes. Their regular season wins were against 4A opponents in Fort Wayne Wayne and Fort Wayne South Side and 5A opponent Fort Wayne North Side.

Berry said Andrean and Fort Wayne Luers have “pretty similar” offensive schemes.

Luers relies on junior quarterback Carson Clark. Clark completed 18 of 25 passes for 293 yards and four touchdowns in a 36-17 win over Tipton last week. He has thrown 30 touchdown passes on the season.

After not seeing a 2A defense during the regular season, Clark has feasted on them during the postseason, completing 76 percent of his passes and throwing for 15 touchdowns as opposed to one interception.

“Fantastic,” Berry said of Clark. “Just watching on film, teams try to get pressure on him, but he gets rid of the ball quicker than the pressure can get there. So very few passes we saw on film were out of place. He was always putting it where it needed to go. Obviously, he’s very confident in his ability and very confident in what his receivers can do. And it’s a high-powered offense that can score any time and any place on the field.”

Top receivers include Brody Glenn (56 receptions, 14 for TDs) and Krashaun Menson, who had five catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns against Tipton.

“I think Luers will take more chances downfield,” Berry said when asked to compare Luers’ offense to Andrean’s. “However, they still do have a great screen game, like Andrean did from what we saw on film. … We don’t think Luers has as much size overall. Speed, it’s hard to tell on film, but they very well could have more team speed than Andrean did.”

Meanwhile, Pioneer’s offense could utilize Cayden Hill under center and could also put Ezra Lewellen under center in a shotgun package.

“Ezra was quarterback growing up,” Berry said. “He played quarterback last year in our shotgun. And so, we put in a little wildcat package with him. … If he sees a lane, he can run it.”

Berry was asked about Luers’ defense and summed it in one word.

“Speed,” he said.

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