WAUKOMIS, Okla. — For the first time in four seasons, Pioneer played football without Z.J. Washington lined up in the backfield.
But the Mustangs were not without a dominating rushing performance from a running back named Washington.
Marzell Washington, Z.J.’s little brother, rushed for 201 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Mustangs (1-0) to a 48-20 victory over Coyle (0-1) Friday night at Pioneer.
It might feel strange not to see the elder Washington take the field anymore, it’s just as strange for the younger Washington not see his older brother on the field with him.
“It definitely isn’t the same,” Marzell Washington said following the game.
Last season, Marzell Washington lined up mostly on the defensive side of the ball. Now, he’s been entrusted by head coach Gus Overstreet and the coaching staff to be a part of Pioneer’s committee of running backs.
“They look to me to pick up that running back position and be a strong runner,” Marzell Washington said.
While Marzell Washington’s leaner build and speed-driven running style differ from Z.J.’s, the production appeared to be just about the same on Friday night. After a fumble on Pioneer’s opening drive, Washington ran for a 64-yard touchdown on the first play of the second drive.
His next two scores — both of which occurred in the second quarter — saw Washington record touchdown runs of 62 yards and 46 yards, respectively. The latter run happened with just under a minute to play in the first half, giving Pioneer a commanding 32-0 lead over Coyle.
“If he can get past that first level,” Overstreet said. “There aren’t many guys that are going to catch him.”
Z.J. Washington, who was in attendance Friday night, said he felt a sense of pride in Marzell's performance.
“It’s really nice watching my brother,” he said.
While Z.J. Washington has given his little brother plenty of advice on how to play at the running back position, he’s seen Marzell Washington put his own mark from the backfield.
“Now he’s (his) own person,” he said.
Pioneer finished with 444 combined rushing yards and saw rushes from seven ballcarriers. Gavin Spargo was second on the team with 64 rushing yards and a touchdown.
At the start of the second quarter, Pioneer faced a second-and-11 situation near midfield. On his first carry of the night, Spargo ran the ball 44 yards for the touchdown, extending Pioneer’s lead to 12-0.
Pioneer went to Spargo again in the third quarter for the goalline score to make it a 40-6 game.
Unlike last year, it was Pioneer that took full control of the game early and never relinquished it. The Mustangs defense shut out the Bluejackets completely in the first half. Coyle wasn’t able to answer until midway through the third quarter.
“The boys just fought hard and did their job,” Overstreet said. “That’s the thing — this is a really close group I got. They know what’s in front of them. They want to make their own shadow.”
After the Bluejackets recovered a Pioneer fumble, running back Damon Caine ran for a 79-yard touchdown on the first play of the ensuing drive.
Caine was the driving force for Coyle’s offense. Of Coyle’s 276 total rushing yards, Caine recorded 222 of them.
The Bluejacket offense was led by two quarterbacks, but mostly saw Keenan Whiteside take most of the snaps. Whiteside, an elusive scrambling quarterback, managed to evade tacklers when running laterally but couldn’t move the ball forward on most of his 13 carries. He finished with just 16 yards.
The Pioneer defense sacked him three times and forced four turnovers (two fumble recoveries, turnover-on-downs, one interception).
“I thought they did a really good job getting a push,” Overstreet said of his defensive line. “They were getting (double-teamed) most of the time, which opens some other guys to make tackles. They fought their tails off.”
When Marzell Washington came out for the post-halftime stretch, he saw his older brother out in the stands. Z.J. Washington didn’t give his little brother any sign of approval of his performance thus far.
“I think he knew if he would have said something that would have probably made me more nervous,” Marzell Washington said.
Before the season started, Marzell Washington said Z.J. Washington wanted his little brother to break his rushing record of more than 5,000 rushing yards.
“If he wants anyone to beat his record, it's me,” Marzell Washington said.
Pioneer heads to Seiling next Friday.