high school football: Offensive miscues stop win streak at four games as Pioneer falls to Monroe
Daniel Brenner | Annarbor.com
The Pioneers entered the game with a chance to clinch a share of the SEC Red Division title, but two lost fumbles and numerous dropped passes were too much for the Pioneers to overcome as they fell to 4-3 on the season and 4-1 in SEC Red play.
Monroe is now 6-1 and 4-1 in SEC Red play on the year.
While Pioneer head coach Paul Test admitted that the mistakes hurt the team, he felt that defense was a bit off.
“We didn’t play as fundamentally sound on defense as we normally do. We played well, but there were times its 3rd and 15 and we gave up big plays,” Test said.
The biggest play of the game came shortly before the half, when on a third down, Monroe quarterback Thomas West found tight end Taylor Lemanski wide open downfield for a 43-yard touchdown pass. It was Monroe's largest gain of the night.
“We made two or three big mistakes defensively and one was the touchdown for No. 42 (Lemanski). That was just a busted coverage,” Test said.
The score gave Monroe the momentum going into halftime at a time when Pioneer had just seized control of the game. After forcing a Monroe punt on the first drive of the game, Pioneer fumbled the punt return and Monroe recovered at the Pioneer 31. Monroe would capitalize with a Jacob Nadeau 10-yard run to take a 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing Pioneer drive, Marquise Thomas fumbled on the third play and Monroe recovered again and had a short field to work with. The Pioneer defense was up to the task and forced a turnover on downs to get the ball back.
After blocking a punt for a safety late in the first quarter, Pioneer put together a six-play, 45-yard drive that ended with an Aedan York 34-yard touchdown pass to KeSean Hugan giving the Pioneers a 9-7 lead.
York finished the game 6-of-13 passing for 81 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 48 yards on the ground.
“He competed, he ran the ball for first downs when they brought pressure. He made sure key throws, some that were caught and a number that weren’t,” Test said. “He’s a competitor. I thought he did a good job tonight overall.”
The Pioneer defense continued to wreak havoc on the unconventional Wing T offense that Monroe deploys, forcing the Trojans to punt on consecutive possessions.
But the Pioneers couldn’t make anything happen offensively and the next time Monroe got the ball, West found Lemanski for the big score.
Neither team got much going in the third quarter as the weather drastically slowed down the team’s ability to move the ball on offense. As the rain lightened up and the wear and tear of grinding out the game took its toll on the Pioneer defense, Monroe was able to engineer a 14-play, 80-yard drive that ate 6:18 of clock to end the third quarter and open the fourth.
During the drive, Monroe managed to gain seven first downs and at one point ran the ball on 15 consecutive plays to break down the defense. West capped it off by scoring from one yard out giving Monroe a 19-9 lead with 9:48 left in the game.
Pioneer wouldn’t go quietly into the night however and nearing cut the deficit to four when York made a play with his legs.
Dropping back to pass, York was flushed out of the pocket to his left. Seeing nothing downfield he doubled back to his right, avoiding the rush. He steeped forward and threw the ball to a wide-open Thomas who had nothing but open field in front of him.
As the ball arrived, Thomas turned his head up field, but dropped the ball, killing what would have been a sure touchdown. After the play, Thomas could be seen sulking on the sideline. Pioneer would manage a field goal, making it 19-12 with 4:04 left.
“We say when they make a mistake ‘the most important play is the next one.’ You can’t dwell on the last one or you’ll make another one,” Test said.
Thomas took those words to heart.
After the his defense managed to get the ball back, Thomas would gain 40 yards rushing on the next drive, moving his team into position to potentially tie the game. Thomas finished the game with 58 yards rushing on nine carries. Eventually the Monroe defense forced a 4th down from inside the Monroe 15-yard line.
Thomas’ number was called again.
York pitched the ball to Thomas on the right hash mark. Thomas made a move towards the line of scrimmage before stepping back and firing a pass to Cameron Cole in the end zone.
But as was the case all night, Cole bobbled the pass before hauling it in and when a Monroe defender hit him, the ball fell to the turf, ending Pioneers chances for a comeback.
After the game Test said that while his team struggled all night, there were other factors working against his team.
“We’re starting to feel the effects of having about eight starters injured,” Test said. “There are a lot of guys that have been hurt. I’m not making excuses, they’re a good team.”
A large part of those injuries are affecting the defense, as starters Ethan Spencer, Tommy Pokorney, Adam Farha and Tyrone Miller did not play Friday night.
With two games remaining, Test needs his team to get healthy enough to get to the magic total of six wins that are necessary to automatically qualify for the playoffs.
Next week the Pioneers face Huron High School before taking on Livonia Franklin to close out the season.
Stats provided by Frank Wadenstorer courtesy of Pioneer.