As we prep for Friday’s Class 2A North Semistate at Luersfield between Bishop Luers (7-6) and visiting Pioneer (12-1), Outside the Huddle thought it would be advantageous to reach out to an expert covering the other side.
Beau Wicker is the sports editor at the Logansport Pharos-Tribune and has covered Pioneer over the years, including state championship runs in 2017 and 2018.
We asked Wicker to give his insight on the Panthers entering Friday.
Make sure to follow Wicker on Twitter @PT_Wicker
OTH: This seems like a vintage Pioneer team that is very run heavy. Just how good is that running attack?
WICKER: After going to a shotgun wing-T when Jack Kiser was the quarterback, the Panthers have gone back to a more traditional wing-T offense, though they do sprinkle in some shotgun. They have had a vaunted rushing attack for years. It starts with the fact they are taught the wing-T from about the third grade on. They haven’t had what you would call a big offensive line in recent years, but they’re very effective. And their two main backs, Ezra and Addai Lewellen, have D-I quickness, speed, strength and athleticism. At 5-8, 160 pounds, Addai has an offer to play running back at Valparaiso and cornerback at Indiana Wesleyan, while Ezra does not plan to play college football at this time.
OTH: A lot of people in northeast Indiana have pointed out that New Haven went to Pioneer and beat it in Week 3. What happened in that game?
WICKER: New Haven has a pretty special player in Jakar Williams, and he made a lot of big plays in that game. Pioneer led 22-6 after one quarter, 22-12 at halftime and 28-18 after three. The Panthers seemed to tire in that game and they didn’t make the plays they needed to down the stretch. They were just coming off a win over Class 6A Chesterton. That’s always the question with smaller schools, you can beat a giant one week but can you do it in back-to-back weeks? The Panthers think they learned some things from that game and that they are in better physical shape in Week 14 than they were in Week 3.
OTH: Cayden Hill is just a freshman at quarterback. How has he done this season?
WICKER: In a word, Hill has been clutch. In arguably Pioneer’s two best wins of the season, Chesterton and Andrean, Hill made big plays when his number was called. He has the ability to throw the ball and he’s also one of the best athletes on the team. He will have a bigger role as he gets older, but he’s capable as a freshman of making big plays. He’s also a key player on defense at cornerback.
OTH: The defensive front seven appears to be extremely stout. What makes them so good?
WICKER: Similar to the offensive line, the Pioneer front seven knows the game and are usually in the right place at the right time. They are also solid tacklers. It’s been like that at Pioneer for years, and that’s why you’ve seen such a successful program over the last 25 years.
OTH: Bishop Luers loves to get its athletes in space and also attack over the top. Has Pioneer faced an offense like that this year? If so, how did it fare?
WICKER: I don’t cover every Pioneer game, but I would say Chesterton, New Haven, LaVille, Bremen and Andrean all run spread-type offenses, though maybe not as well as Luers in some aspects. For the most part they’ve done well. They’re 4-1 in those games going against some pretty good teams.
OTH: Are there any obvious weaknesses Pioneer has entering into this game?
WICKER: Pioneer’s biggest weakness is probably a lack of size. But the Panthers were able to knock off an Andrean team last week that I would say had monstrous size for a Class 2A team. It was really quite a remarkable win for the Panthers. Pioneer was also without second leading rusher Brock Robinson, who has rushed for over 1,100 yards this year but is out with a broken collarbone injury, which hurts their depth.
OTH: What do you see being the outcome of this one?
WICKER: I’m expecting a back and forth close game throughout. Prediction: Pioneer 30, Luers 28.