The Pioneer Panthers are 3-0 for a second straight season. However, their third win of 2019 didn’t come easy on the road at the Lewiston-Porter Lancers.
The Panthers defeated the Lancers (1-2) 28-14 in a Section VI Class B1 matchup at Lew-Port’s Blakeslee Field on Friday night.
If you came for offense, the first half was your entertainment as all 42 points were scored in the first 24 minutes. The final 24 minutes were, for the most part, contained by the Lancers’ and Panthers’ defenses.
The Pioneer offense scored on its first three possessions of the game for 21 first quarter points.
On the first offensive drive, the Panthers started at their own 49-yard line. Tra’e Hill, who was all over the field for Pioneer, ran the second play of the drive for 22 yards, then, on 3rd and 18 three plays later, quarterback Brody Hopkins threw a deep pass that was nearly intercepted by Lew-Port’s Cooper Krawczyk. Unfortunately for the Lancers, the pass went off of Krawczyk and into the hands of Hill for a 31-yard touchdown pass. After an extra point, Pioneer led 7-0.
The Lancers were quick to respond though as quarterback John Paul Stewart threw three completions for 77 yards. The big gainer came on a 47-yard pass to wide receiver John Wendt. Stewart finished the drive on fourth down and nine as he found Corey Stack for a 16-yard touchdown. The following extra point tied things up at seven.
Pioneer quickly answered. Tyler Ely carried twice for 20 yards, then, on fourth and two, Hill took a carry 44 yards to the house for his second score of the night. This and an extra point gave the Panthers the 14-7 advantage.
On the ensuing kickoff, Pioneer recovered an onside/pooch kick and brought their offense back on the field.
The Panthers proceeded to run seven times for 40 yards, which Hill finished off for his third touchdown of the game from four yards out. Pioneer now had a two-touchdown lead, 21-7.
Despite being down, the Lancers refused to quit as the offense flipped the switch on its second drive. After completing a pass for 12 yards to Krawczyk, Stewart handed the ball off to running back Gino Fontanarosa seven times for 57 yards. Fontanarosa finished the drive with a seven-yard score to cut into the Panthers lead, 21-14.
Pioneer came back once again though. Despite being deep in their own territory, the Panthers benefitted from a facemask and unsportsmanlike penalty on L-P. Two Hill rushes for 20 yards and then an Ely touchdown rush for 36 yards later, the lead was back to 14 points, now 28-14.
The Lancers had one more shot to try and punch a score in late in the first half. L-P deferred the opening kickoff, so a score would’ve meant a one possession game with the ball coming out of the half for the Lancers. Stewart was able to get the offense into Pioneer territory, but the Lancers eventually turned it over on downs and went into halftime trailing 28-14.
Now for the offensive lovers, this game was over for you at halftime, as the defenses were able to hold it down for the final twenty-four minutes.
On the first Lancers possession of the half, Stewart was able to find his tight end Joe Beatty for a decent gain. On the very next play, it seemed like the play was available again, but Pioneer’s Jordan King stepped in front of the route for an interception.
Lew-Port drove late in the fourth quarter, using 16 plays to get inside the red zone, but eventually turned it over on downs, sealing the Pioneer victory, 28-14.
Offensively for the Panthers, Hill had 16 carries for 133 yards and two touchdowns to go along with his 31-yard touchdown grab in the first quarter. Additionally, Ely added 11 carries for 86 yards and a TD.
For Pioneer Coach James Duprey, he said he was happy to come away with the win after the long drive from Yorkshire to face a feisty Lancers squad, but admitted the team had work to do.
“I’d say the first half was a good effort on offense and the second half was a good effort on defense. We definitely didn’t put four quarters of football together and if we’re going to go where we want to go, we’re going to have to play a lot better than that,” Duprey said. “We can’t take so many penalties, we can’t have so many mistakes.”
The big key to victory was the Panthers’ rushing attack in the first half. Hill and Ely’s effort essentially sealed Pioneer’s third victory.
“We did well. The offensive line fired off, but I give Lew-Port a lot of credit. They made a lot of adjustments that we were unable to handle in the second half,” Duprey said.
The star of the game Hill added, “The line helped push them all back off the line and that helped me be able to get those big yards.”
Offensively for the Lancers, Stewart went 12-28 with 170 yards, a TD and an interception. Additionally, Wendt had five receptions for 96 yards, Krawczyk had three for 34 yards, and Stack had two for 27 yards and a touchdown. On the ground, Fontanarosa shined again for the Lancers with 22 carries for 137 yards and a touchdown.
Lew-Port Coach Matt Bradshaw said he was not disappointed by his team’s performance, and, quite frankly, if the ball bounced differently a few times for the Lancers, it could’ve been a different game.
“When you play a team as good as Pioneer, you have to take advantage of some situations,” Bradshaw said. “When we didn’t get that interception that I thought Cooper had – I think if he went up with two hands instead of one he would’ve had it. I think on every touchdown drive they had, there was a fourth down involved, and, again, we need to stop them.”
He added, “Then they get the onside kick and they score again. We can’t give up that interception opportunity, we can’t give up that onside kick, we can’t give up letting them make fourth downs in those series. But I was really pleased that these kids were able to understand the adjustments we made at halftime to come out there and shut them down in the second half.”
Bradshaw additionally gave credit to his roster of 21 players for grinding it out against the tough Pioneer squad.
“We play 21 kids. They play both ways and they play a team that physical in Pioneer and they stood right up against them. So I’m really proud of the kids,” Bradshaw added.
Duprey praised Lew-Port’s effort with a short roster and said, “They only play 21 kids, but they have 21 tough kids.”
Up next for Pioneer is a Section VI finals rematch versus Cheektowaga. Last October, the Warriors upended the Panthers chance for gold, 14-7, at New Era Stadium. Duprey and Hill said they were ready for the tall task at hand.
“It’s nice to be 3-0, but now we really have to focus our efforts on Cheektowaga. Every game now is about the playoffs. Every single game. We can’t lose any of these games in the next three weeks, we have to win them all,” Duprey said.
Hill added, “They beat us in the stadium and we’ll be ready with a chip on our shoulder. We’ll be ready for them.”
The Lancers’ next matchup is at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, September 27th at Lake Shore. The big Class B championship rematch is at Pioneer at 7pm on the 27th.
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