By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Pioneer struggled to find a foothold in an exhibition tuneup against 2A Newkirk on Thursday, just more than a week before its season opener against Fairview.
The Mustangs, short-handed on Thursday and tasked with replacing their top rusher (Aaron Chain) and passer (Jett Jobe) from last year’s 2-8 season, didn’t get many opportunities for final evaluations of respective replacements Chase Courter and Collin Mason, neither of whom had much time to maneuver through pressure from a bigger Newkirk defensive front.
“It’s not ability,” said third-year Pioneer coach Kurt Myers, who figured his team was at 70 percent with a handful of starters limited. “Sometimes it’s mental mistakes and we block the wrong people. I was more worried about ability at first, but now I’m seeing the ability, and the effort, we’ve just got to clean it up.”
The Tigers’ starting offense regularly gashed Pioneer’s defense, breaking plays of 20-plus yards four times in two 10-play possessions against a Mustang defense of mostly starters.
The scrimmage format gave each set of starting units two 10-play possessions, though the number of plays wasn’t strictly adhered to, with both top units finishing with more than 20 plays.
Pioneer’s top offense, without seniors Blake Gabriel and Charles Clardy, who were held out for precautionary reasons, had 36 yards on 10 plays in its opening drive, but finished 23 snaps for 27 yards after a second possession that had five plays for negative yardage, spawning a handful of fights between the teams.
“It definitely threw me for a loop,” Mason said. “It caught me off guard when I turned around and saw a fight, but it brought the fire out in our guys. Obviously, that’s not the way we want to be physical, but we’re all teammates, and we all have each other’s backs.”
“I don’t mind it being a little chippy as long as we keep within the rules of the game,” Myers added. “It got a little heated, more than I wanted it to, but I kinda like that we have a little fight in our heart.”
Mason completed two of six passes for 22 yards, and Courter carried the ball 12 times for 25 yards and had one catch of 10 yards for Pioneer, which didn’t score in the scrimmage.
“The holes are there, they just need to hold them (open) a little longer,” Courter said.
Newkirk had 274 yards on 22 snaps, scoring four times.
First-year starter Jaycee Johnston completed six of seven passes for 87 yards and a pair of scores, Colton Sparks rushed six times for a shifty 110 yards and a score, and Jared Schieber had eight carries for 61 yards and two touchdowns for Newkirk, which finished 3-7 last season.