Week 7 preview: After 4th straight win, Berry wary of tough Knox defense
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Knox (1-5, 0-3 Hoosier North) at Pioneer (4-2, 3-1), 7:30 p.m.
Field goals might be rare in high school football. That means that blocked field goal returns for touchdowns are even rarer.
Yet Oscar Solano blocked Triton’s Cole Shively’s field goal attempt, and Eli Miller picked it up and ran it 80 yards for a touchdown in Pioneer’s 26-6 win last week.
If a team blocks an extra point, that cannot be returned for a two-point conversion in high school football. But a blocked field goal is a live ball, and Miller was “heads up” enough to see the ball, pick it up and run with it after it died in the grass momentarily, according to Pioneer coach Adam Berry.
That was the second of two special teams touchdowns that Pioneer scored. The first came when Brock Robinson returned the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown.
“We always think that we can change the game on special teams, for sure,” Berry said. “Whether it’s a block, a big play … a big return like we’ve had in the past. But when you get the touchdowns on them, it’s just icing on the cake.”
Offensively, Pioneer amassed 148 yards of total offense against Triton. Moving the ball against Knox this week might not be any easier.
Though Knox lost to LaVille 7-6 last week, they held the Lancers to just 160 yards of offense.
Knox is 1-5, putting Hall of Fame coach Russ Radtke’s streak of 31 consecutive winning seasons in jeopardy. The streak spans Radtke’s coaching stints at Connersville, Griffith, New Prairie and his first season at Knox in 2020.
“That’s what we told the players in our Monday meeting,” Berry said. “Don’t look at their record because they are much better than what it shows. They’ve been in a lot of close games where one play, two plays makes the difference. That record could easily be flipped. It starts with their coach – Hall of Famer, been around the game a long time. He just knows what the other team’s strengths are and where to put his guys to be successful.”
Knox is led by quarterback Cohen Watson and running back Gunnar Krause, but Knox averages just 11 points per game.
“He does a great job of managing the game,” Berry said of Watson. “When they throw it, he has weapons to the outside. It’s kind of one of those things where they try to catch the defense sleeping, similar to what we do.”
Pioneer is 6-0 against Knox since they became conference rivals. Pioneer beat Knox 38-20 last year, and the 20 points are the most Knox has ever scored against the Panthers.