Pioneer advances to district championship with 28-6 win over Monroe
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com
Only 88 seconds remained in the Pioneer High School football team’s first round Division 1 playoff game against Monroe on Friday night, and most of Pioneer’s starters were on the sideline.
Then something happened that hadn’t occurred for the entire second half of the game: Monroe got a first down.
Pioneer’s defense was dominant -- allowing just eight yards in the second half (127 total) -- and Drake Johnson provided the offensive fireworks as Pioneer advanced to the second round of the playoffs with a 28-6 win.
Monroe coach Eric Redmond didn’t mince words following the game.
“They kicked our ass. They flat-out kicked our ass up front,” Redmond said. “Their defensive tackles just brought it.”
Following their sixth home victory in as many tries, the Pioneer players rang the bell at Hollway Field. They’ll have another chance to do so next week after Temperance Bedford upset higher-seeded Brighton, 28-20, on the other side of the district bracket.
Bedford (7-3) will travel to Pioneer (8-2) for the district championship game. Pioneer beat the Kicking Mules 38-14 in Week 6 of the regular season.
"We want to play at home again in front of our home crowd," said Pioneer linebacker Maurice Young. "It feels good."
Johnson scored his first of four touchdowns on a 20-yard run with 3:53 left in the first quarter to put Pioneer up 7-0.
Monroe (7-3) answered with a 12-play, 81-yard scoring drive, capped by a 5-yard run by Jacob Nadeau. But that would be as much offense as the Trojans could muster the rest of the night.
Pioneer coach Paul Test was pleased with his defense's continued improvement. Pioneer hasn't given up more than two touchdowns in regulation since Week 5 of the season.
"Our (defense) is getting better, they really are," Test said. "I'm really pleased with the improvement our D has made in the past three or four weeks."
Johnson scored again in the second quarter to put Pioneer up 14-6, but three first half fumbles, two of which were recovered by Monroe, kept the game in reach.
"I got these new gloves today and at first I was like, they're jinxed," said Johnson. "I got 'em dirty a little bit, roughed them up so they had a little more traction, and then they were fine. ... With the progression of the game, I just tried to hold onto the ball more."
Johnson got plenty accustomed to his gloves in the second half as Pioneer continued to feed the ball to him. He delivered with touchdown runs of 8 and 26 yards. Johnson finished with 228 yards on 33 carries.
Pioneer's defense didn't need the cushion Johnson provided.
"We take great pride in our team D," said Pioneer defensive lineman Aaron Noffke. "We're trying to bring back the defense of old, 'Purple Gang.'"