Pioneer coach Gus Overstreet has the optimism of a coach who graduated only two players from last year’s 9-4 team that lost to Davenport in the state quarterfinals.
“We’re excited about it,’’ Overstreet said. “We lost two seniors who were key assets, but bringing everybody else back is a good thing.’’
The Mustangs will stick with Overstreet’s smash mouth football philosophy on both offense and defense.
“We’re not getting away from that,’’ Overstreet said. “We’re still ground-and-pound and we’ll be physical on defense and swarm to the ball. We want to have eight guys to the hat.’’
The Mustangs, second to Cherokee in District B-2 last year, will be in a revamped District B-7. Rival Garber is the lone returning district opponent. Covington-Douglas and three Eastern schools — Yale, Barnsdall and Olive complete the district.
“It’s going to be weird going East instead of West,’’ Overstreet said. “It’s a different feeling. We’re excited about seeing new blood.”
Pioneer averaged 36.2 points per game last season. Those numbers should be even better this season.
Senior quarterback Ty Dennett ran for 957 yards on 146 carries for a 6.6 average and 13 touchdowns. He completed 16 of 35 passes for 226 yards and two scores with five interceptions. He averaged 23.5 yards on kickoff returns.
“He’s a runner first,’’ Overstreet said, “but when we need him to make a pass, he’s going to do it for us. He’s the leader of the offense for sure.’’
Marzell Washington, a 185-pound senior rushed for 1,072 yards on 126 carries for a 8.5 average and 15 touchdowns.
Returning fullback Rafeal Torres is a blocker first, but he rushed for 362 yards on 53 carries for a 6.8 average and two touchdowns.
Senior Cal Dennett (202 yards on 28 carries for a 7.2 average and five TDs) and Kaden Humphries (488 yards on 89 carries and nine touchdowns) and Chisholm transfer Leyton Parker provide depth.
The line is back in tact with Robert Newberg, a 200-pound junior and Dakota Wingo, a 220-pound junior, at tight ends; Jacob Smith, a 220-pound senior and Brandon DeLaTorre, a 200-pound senior at the guards and Sean Rich, a 310-pound sophomore at center.
Newberg was the team leading receiver with 13 catches for 88 yards, while Wingo had eight receptions for 52 yards.
The defense, with seven starters back, is expected to improve from its numbers from last season (25 points a game).
“You can’t complain when you bring seven guys back,’’ Overstreet said. “We’re going to be adding pieces to it. We swarm to the ball and we know they will do their jobs and the others will be there for them.’’
Smith is a dominant player at nose guard where he has 75 unassisted and 21 assisted tackles last season with 10 sacks.
“He is the leader of our defense,’’ Overstreet said. “How he goes is how we go and that says a lot from your nose guard. He always busts his hump. He is always swarming to the ball. A lot of times he is making tackles by himself. He is fighting through double teams. He knows if we’re going to have a good year, he’s going to have to do the same thing this year. We know he’s going to do his job.’’
He is joined in the line in the 3-2 defense by DeLaTorre (31 unassisted and 13 assisted tackles with two quarterback sacks) and Rogue DeLaTorre, a 210-pound sophomore, who had 36 unassisted and 24 assisted tackles.
Wingo (36 unassisted and 24 assisted tackles, three quarterback sacks and two interceptions) and Newberg (55 unassisted and 30 assisted tackles, three quarterback sacks) will be the linebackers. Torres had 37 unassisted and 12 assisted tackles last year at linebacker with three interceptions.
The Dennett brothers (Ty, 45 unassisted and 13 assited tackles with three pass deflections and five interceptions and Cal, 20 unassisted and 13 assisted tackles with nine pass deflections and one interception) are the cornerbacks with Parker at safety.
In the T and T defensive alignment, Wingo, Smith and DeLaTorre are the linemen, Newberg is at middle linebacker and Cal Dennett and Washington (15 unassisted and 10 assisted tackles) are the outside backers. Ty Dennett and Parker are the safeties.
Sophomore Rowdy Hoy (27 unassisted and eight assisted tackles) and Kyce O’Donnell (seven unassited and one assisted tackle) will be in the rotation.
“Everybody who is coming back had a good year,’’ Overstreet said.
Depth will be another strength.
“We have 24 kids out and there’s not a kid out there that we can’t say won’t be a rotational player,’’ Overstreet said. “There’s not a kid out there that we can’t trust to do their job.’’
Pioneer is scheduled to open the season Aug. 28 at home against Seiling.
The Mustangs are looking for their sixth straight playoff trip. The nine wins last season were the most by a Pioneer team since going 11-3 in 2005.
PIONEER - District B-7
Aug. 28 — Seiling
Sept. 4 — at Coyle
Sept. 11 — Cherokee
Sept. 18 — Waukomis
Sept. 25 — at Laverne
Oct. 9 — Garber
Oct. 15 — at Olive
Oct. 23 — at Barnsdall
Oct. 30 — Yale
Nov. 6 — at Covington-Douglas
Head coach — Gus Overstreet, 7th season, record 48-35