Another Pioneers Shutout
By Cassie Kickert

2012 Week 4: Stats | Recap

“They’ve never had an offense like ours”, quarterback Michael Spriggs said to the offense in a huddle after last Thursday’s practice – he was talking about past Pioneers teams.

He’s right. Through the first four games of 2011, the Pioneers scored 111 points. The opposition scored only 19 points, impressive, to be sure. But in 2012, the Pioneers offense and defense have taken their accomplishments to another level. Through the first four games this season, the team has scored 207 points, 96 more points than last season.

And how many have teams scored against the Pioneers? Zero. Zilch. Nada. That’s right. No team has yet been able to score on the Pioneers this season. Although the Menomonie Thunderhawks came close – being stuffed on 4th down at the 1-yard line – the Pioneers defense made sure it didn’t happen Saturday at Seafoam Stadium.

While the Pioneers are seemingly scoring at will, the defense is unlike anything anyone has seen from the Pioneers, too. Saturday also marked the 50th victory for head coach Mark Heiser in four short years coaching the Pioneers.

The scoring started early. On the first offensive play of the game, Spriggs threw to receiver Delane Woods in stride, resulting in a 61-yard touchdown pass and catch.

Spriggs said he expected it “from preparation and watching film. [We] took advantage of it.”

The Thunderhawks couldn’t manage to get more than one first down on their first possession courtesy of defensive back Everett Wilburn. He intercepted Troy Young at the Thunderhawks’ 24 yard line.

It took the Pioneers all of two plays to get another touchdown. Isaac Odim, who returned to the lineup after missing the last two games with a foot injury, took this one 24 yards for a touchdown.

Odim said his foot feels much better but is still healing.

“It definitely feels a lot better than it has the last couple weeks. It’s still hurting. It’s like taking two steps forward and one step back. It’s a work in progress,” he said.

It was on the Thunderhawks’ next possession that they would have the best chance of any team to score on the Pioneers. Yet, they could not capitalize on it.

After Troy Young took the ball to the goal line, the Pioneers defense said ‘not in our house’, stopping the Thunderhawks from becoming the first team to score against the Pioneers this season.

Because the Thunderhawks turned it over on downs, the Pioneers started near their own goal line. It didn’t matter.

After practice on Thursday, Spriggs said, “Let’s turn it up this week. We have to make a statement.”

Two plays later, Odim took it 97 yards for a touchdown, setting a Pioneers record for longest run in a game.

When asked about the play, Odim gave credit to his teammates and coaches:
“[Offensive Coordinator] Rob [Neumann] saw a weakness and exploited it. The line blocked it perfectly.  [We also] got a great block downfield from Delane [Woods],” he said.

Another touchdown, this one on a Spriggs pass to receiver Sean Lewis, would make the score 28-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Neumann put the excellent running game on display to start the second quarter. Brian Holmes had 32 yards on the drive that ended in a 25-yard field goal by kicker John Dierkhising.

Two penalties on the Pioneers moved the Thunderhawks to the Pioneers 48 yard line. A fumble took them back to their own 36 yard line, though, and forced a punt.

Then, the Pioneers set the tempo of the game, running and passing at will. On one play, Odim ran 10 yards for a first down. Four plays later, Spriggs threw 13 yards to Lewis for a first down. After a timeout, Odim ran in for yet another touchdown, his third of the day.

A sack by defensive end Jeff McGaster seconds before halftime illustrated the Pioneers’ dominance in the first half.

The second half started just as the first half ended—with the Pioneers dominating on defense. The Thunderhawks got all of one yard before being forced to punt.

When asked how the defense is able to dominate game after game, defensive lineman Garrett Johnson said, “We play every play 100 percent. The coaches make great calls for us.”

After Lionel Lamarre returned the punt to the Thunderhawks’ 47 yard line, Odim evaded two tacklers on his way to a 20-yard run. Then, Spriggs carried it for 14 yards. Holmes and fullback Joe Sellwood also joined in, running for seven and three yards, respectively.

Two plays later, offensive lineman Thomas Broussard recovered a fumble in the end zone for another Pioneers touchdown.

Instead of kicking the extra point, the Pioneers attempted a two point conversion. However, tight end Joe Ubani was tackled short of the end zone.

That made the score 44-0 about halfway through the third quarter.

After another fumble moved the Thunderhawks back to their own six yard line, the Pioneers started at the Thunderhawks 25 yard line. On this drive, DeMario Walton ran three times for 21 yards. Then, McGaster – getting a rare chance on offense -- ran in untouched for a touchdown.

After an 8- yard pass to receiver Taqori Lott, the Thunderhawks went for it on fourth down. The
Pioneers defense guaranteed the Thunderhawks did not get a first down when Ryan Ament was tackled for a loss of three.

On the next Pioneers possession, quarterback Bryan Trulen threw a 19-yard pass to tight end Eric Baumgartner, setting up a touchdown pass to receiver Mike Dozier.

After the touchdown pass to Dozier, the score was 58-0 Pioneers. Another Wilburn interception near the end of the game ensured that would be the final score.

Johnson praised Wilburn’s athleticism.

“He has great ball skills. He knows exactly when to go for the ball. He plays his defender very nicely. A very fun player to watch,” Johnson said.

Next, the Pioneers host their new division rival, the Minnesota Spartans, Saturday, June 9, at Seafoam Stadium at 5pm. See you there!