Week 8 football preview: Culver, Pioneer coming off strong rushing performances
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Culver (2-5, 1-4 Hoosier North) at Pioneer (6-1, 3-0), 7 p.m.
The Culver football team’s rushing game was working so well against Caston last week that the only time they even attempted a pass was on a two-point conversion. They finished with 352 yards – both Shane Shuman and Blake Thompson went over 100 yards – in a 36-12 win.
“I felt like our line was our strength,” Culver coach Mike Zehner said. “I felt like we could do some things up front. And our kids did. Shuman had 155 yards. … Blake Thompson had over 100 yards as well. Emiliano (Ortiz) was like 80 yards. So we definitely got the ground game going. Really it was important to get off to a quick start and do that.”
As for Pioneer, they had 389 yards of total offense in a 38-20 win over Knox last week – 387 yards rushing, 2 yards passing.
Both Brock Robinson and Ezra Lewellen combined for 305 yards rushing and five touchdowns. As a team, Pioneer averaged 9.9 yards per carry.
“Our offensive line just keeps improving,” Pioneer coach Adam Berry said. “Really I told them yesterday in our meeting that our practice even starts with the offensive line. When they’re intense and when they’re getting after it, we have great practices. Same goes for games. When they have their best games, it makes the jobs of the running backs a lot easier.
“Now we also have to give credit to the running backs. They read their blocks extremely well, and they ran extremely hard and fought for those extra yards.”
Now the teams face each other at The Pit, where Culver lost 72-0 in their last visit two years ago.
“They’re just really fast,” Zehner said of the Pioneer defense. “They’re not big up front. They’re not going to overpower you. They get 11 guys to the football, and they get there fast. … Their defense is very impressive.”
The Culver offense presents a unique challenge for the Pioneer defense. When Berry speaks of Culver’s balance, he doesn’t mean run versus pass as much as he means right versus left. With there being no strong side or weak side, it’s hard to detect what part of the field the Culver offense is going to attack.
“They’re a balanced offense, so we have to stay balanced on defense,” Berry said. “Talk about another power football team. Coach Zehner’s not afraid to tell you he’s going to run power right and power left the majority of the time. That’s just another team that we’ve struggled with a little bit in the past just running that power football. They’re getting their big guys on our little guys. And once again, they’re going to run the play clock down. They’re going to want to control the game and control the clock. And they’re not afraid to go for it fourth-and-four, fourth-and-three from anywhere on the field. We have to anticipate that they’re going to use all four downs to get the first down.”