Week 3 football preview: Top-ranked Panthers host New Haven, top QB Williams
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
New Haven (2-0) at Pioneer (2-0), 7:30 p.m.
So who is Pioneer playing this week?
Once again, Pioneer needed a game after an opponent was forced to cancel due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, Chesterton replaced Winamac on the schedule, and Pioneer earned a 20-16 win over the Class 6A Trojans.
This week, New Haven has replaced LaVille on the schedule. The Class 4A Bulldogs are 2-0 with wins over Garrett and Mississinewa.
Quarterback Jakar Williams leads New Haven. Williams, who also averages 12 points per game for New Haven’s sectional championship basketball team, will line up in the shotgun and is capable of either throwing it himself or running on his own.
“He’s a big body,” Pioneer coach Adam Berry said. “I think they have him listed at 220 (pounds), and he’s all of that. His size is the first thing that you see. But then he doesn’t look to take off running a lot, but when he does, he’s very effective. He stands tall in the pocket, and he throws a great ball. He’s looking to go downfield, and so our DBs are going to have an even better week this week keeping everything in front of him. He’s just a very impressive ballplayer.”
Berry praised junior defensive lineman Derrick LeGrand, who had a huge sack against elusive Chesterton quarterback Chris Mullen in the fourth quarter last week.
“As a sophomore, he was actually voted our defensive player of the year last year,” Berry said. “And so, the players know how important he is. The coaching staff knows how important he is. He just brings that extra motor to our defense. Most games, he leads our team in tackles.”
Meanwhile, Pioneer will try to move the ball on the ground against New Haven just as they did against Chesterton. That Pioneer had over 270 yards rushing against Chesterton, which included a 147-yard effort from fullback Brock Robinson, speaks well for the offensive line, according to Berry.
“They played extremely well,” Berry said. “A lot of coaches say teams improve the most from Week 1 to Week 2, and I thought we improved tremendously, especially our o-line. We stressed the importance all last week about firing out low and getting on Chesterton’s hip because if we try to block them up at the shoulders, it’s not going to work. And just going back and reviewing film, that’s exactly what we did: They fired out low exactly like we talked about in practice, and they executed.”
Berry also praised senior Addai Lewellen, who fought through an ankle injury and gained two critical first downs on the ground in the fourth quarter. Lewellen played sparingly on offense in the first half before convincing Berry to play both ways in the second half.
Pioneer moved up from No. 2 to No. 1 in this week’s Class 2A poll. Eastbrook, last week’s No. 1 team, dropped to No. 4 after their loss to Delta last week.