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  • Val T.

Week 5 preview: Toloza leads Pioneer against Hammond Central


Sports Editor, RTC

Hammond Central (4-0) at Pioneer (3-1), 7 p.m.

Pioneer pulled away in the fourth quarter to earn a 35-6 win over Caston last week. The win was their third of the season, which means they have exceeded their 2022 win total.

Senior fullback Rylahn Toloza has rushed for 649 yards in four games, including at least 100 in every game and a season-high 197 against Caston.

“Simply just getting a lot stronger,” Pioneer coach Adam Berry said when asked how Toloza has raised his game. “His squat numbers went up tremendously in the offseason, and that shows. There were some times in a couple different games where you’d think that he was stopped at the line of scrimmage, but he would just bounce off and get four or five or sometimes more than 10 yards where it should have been either a no-gain or even a loss of yardage.”

Berry said the defense did a good job of reading its keys against Caston. Each individual did their job. Berry said there were more missed tackles than he would like, though he credited Caston’s running backs.

Now they must face Hammond Central junior Dashawn Woods, who ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-15 win over Highland last week. Woods has 738 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground through four games for the Wolves.

Having said that, Pioneer held Woods to 10 yards rushing in a 46-22 loss at Hammond Central last year.

“Talk about a running back that is smooth,” Berry said. “There’s times … where he gets stopped, bounces off, makes one cut and then he’s off to the races. … Everytime he touches the ball, he can go for big yards. Tackling and not breaking down is very key for us stopping Woods.”

Pioneer and Hammond Central, a Class 5A school, have split their two previous meetings. This is the third year of Hammond Central’s football program. The school formed in 2021 as a consolidation of Hammond High School, Hammond Gavit and Hammond Clark.

Pioneer moved up to No. 12 in this week’s Associated Press Class 1A poll.

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