With just two area teams remaining in the Indiana high school football postseason, Outside the Huddle is breaking down the chances of a northeast Indiana team advancing to Lucas Oil Stadium next weekend.
Today, we look at Pioneer (12-1) taking on host Bishop Luers (7-6).
1. FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
Friday will see the first matchup in history between Pioneer and Bishop Luers, a pair of program that have combined to win 14 state championships.
Pioneer is typically a 1A power, but was bumped up due to success factor following back-to-back titles in 2017-18.
These two programs are no strangers to huge games, with the latest one coming up at Luersfield.
2. WING-T EXCELLENCE
Pioneer’s traditional Wing-T offense is nothing flashy, but it is effective and has been for a long time.
The Panthers will stick with what works on Friday, and sprinkle in some shotgun on occasion to mix some things up.
But the mission put forth on the Bishop Luers defense is big – slow down an offense that AVERAGES nine yards per carry.
3. FRIENDLY CONFINES
Friday’s game will mark the 11th semistate game held at Luersfield, with the Knights holding an 8-2 record overall at the venue.
While that is a solid mark, we should point out that Bishop Luers won its first eight semistate games at home before dropping the last two – 2014 against Andrean and 2018 against West Lafayette.
Can the Knights end the small losing skid?
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
EZRA LEWELLEN, SENIOR, PIONEER
Half of the Lewellen duo that predominantly totes the rock for Pioneer, Ezra has Division I speed, strength and athleticism.
Ezra leads the Panthers with 1,670 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns, while Addai Lewellen contributes 1,104 yards on the ground and 14 scores.
Ezra’s lowest rushing total in a game this year is 92 yards, and has surpassed 100 yards in nine straight contests.
BRODY GLENN, JUNIOR, BISHOP LUERS
We feel like we are repeating ourselves here, but Glenn may be the most important player on the field on Friday for the Knights.
Glenn’s ability to stretch defenses is his greatest asset, and he is great in traffic as well as when he breaks open down field. He averages nearly 19 yards PER CATCH and has hauled in nine touchdowns this postseason.
DERRICK LEGRAND, JUNIOR, PIONEER
Lining up on the edge or at outside linebacker, Legrand is a tackling machine who does plenty of work in the offensive backfield.
He leads Pioneer in both TFL (16.5) and sacks (6.5), while accumulating close to 100 overall tackles on the season.
Legrand isn’t a massive kid, but he is quick on his feet and finishes above his weight.
DA’VON DOUGHTY, SOPHOMORE, BISHOP LUERS
The Knights count on a lot of underclassmen in all three facets of the game. Someone who does not get a lot of notoriety is Doughty, who will be pivotal at his linebacker spot, as well as his position mates in facing the Wing-T.
The sophomore has amassed 87 tackles, 18.5 TFL and three sacks on the season.
KEYS TO VICTORY – PIONEER
1. ESTABLISH THE RUN
This is the No. 1 priority for Pioneer each and every game, and has been for over two decades.
Coach Adam Berry’s team has thrown for just 227 yards total on the year. However, assuming that freshman quarterback Cayden Hill is not a threat is far from the truth. While the Knights must corral Pioneer’s running backs, it must be prepared for Hill to look downfield, as he has made some big plays the last few weeks with his arm.
2. WRAP UP TACKLES
Bishop Luers was able to turn small gains into big plays last week against Tipton, which proved to be one of the catalysts in the game.
Glenn is the flash, but guys like Ramon Anderson and Krashaun Menson are both dangerous every time they touch the ball.
Pioneer cannot close down on a play only to allow the Knights to get loose.
KEYS TO VICTORY – BISHOP LUERS
1. BE PHYSICAL
Pioneer is very technical, but it is not overly big. Now, Bishop Luers doesn’t have massive offensive and defensive fronts, but it plays bigger than it is and can throw its weight around and holds its own.
If the Knights can win the battle up front it can disrupt the Wing-T, or on offense give Carson Clark time to make some plays.
2. AVOID THE PULLS, FREE THE LBs
Defending the Wing-T can be difficult, especially when you have just a week or so to prepare for it.
There are two principles in which Bishop Luers must master – taking away the pulling guards along the offensive front and keeping the linebackers off blocks in order to fill holes or pusue and make plays.
This is easier said than done, particular the former when guards are pulling immediately after the snap. If the defensive line can engage those guards before they pull, it eliminates them as a blocker.
Also, a defensive front that can eat up space opens up the linebackers to roam.