WAUKOMIS, Okla. — Playing at home has more meaning to Pioneer beyond a home field advantage over the visitor.
“Anybody that goes to Pioneer,” head coach Gus Overstreet said, “it’s always home to them. They’re always wanting to come back, they care about their community, they cheer on their athletic programs here.
“It’s a unique place.”
Pioneer welcomes Coyle to Mustang field Friday for a 7 p.m. season-opener for both teams.
Running into someone around town could lead to a conversation about how the Mustangs are doing in football, basketball, cross country, softball, and more.
“It’s kind of nice, especially when your school’s out in the middle of nowhere,” Overstreet said. “You’re going to see cows around the field and everything. It’s just — it’s just home.”
Rain or shine, hot or cold, the stands are typically filled at Pioneer.
“The community does a really good job of standing behind the kids and rooting for them,” Overstreet said. “They’re going to be out here supporting us.”
The Mustangs start the football season a week later than last year. Pioneer used the extra time to prepare for the upcoming season and participated in preseason scrimmages with Davenport, Ringwood and Shattuck. Overstreet said the extra time allowed for the Mustangs to fine-tune things and give him a better idea of who can handle playing time in a new spot and who can handle increased playing time.
Senior middle linebacker Carson Maxwell, for example, proved he could be a reliable asset as on the offensive line as a guard, despite being a tad undersized.
“He’s a senior kid that really stepped up for us,” Overstreet said of Maxwell. “He did a really good job for us, especially against Davenport. There are some big hogs in there and he held his own, and I was really proud to see what he could do in the trenches.”
Maxwell will still lead the Pioneer defense, as well.
“He's the heart of that defense,” Overstreet said. “He's the one that gets going he's the one that gets guys fired up. He's the one that keeps their heads on the right spots.”
Overstreet also pointed to freshman lineman Roque Del La Torre, the younger brother of junior lineman Brandon De La Torre. The Pioneer head coach said the younger Del La Torre showed the effort of wanting to be out on the field and “do what’s best for the team.”
The Pioneer backfield will see plenty of new faces as the Mustangs will have “a running back by committee.” Pioneer graduated former lead back Z.J. Washington, who rushed for 2,120 yards in his final season.
Sophomore Raphael Torres and juniors Gavin Spargo, Cal Dennett and Marzel Washington, Z.J.’s younger brother, will be splitting carries this season. Torres, Spargo, and Dennett will carry the ball in between the tackles while Mazel Washington will run the ball to the edge before cutting up the field in an open lane.
“The nice thing about my backs is they’re all unique in their own ways,” Overstreet said. “We got one guy who just kind of goes straight, you got one guy who is going to go over, we got one looking to cut, and we got one back who’s looking to cut and bruise at the same time.”
Junior quarterback Ty Dennett will also participate in the run-game, as well.
Last season, Coyle jumped out to a 22-8 lead before outscoring Pioneer 16-8 in the second half for a 24-point win. The season-opening non-district loss led to a four-game skid before Pioneer was able to right the ship.
Pioneer will aim for a better start for the season, and that starts with a better start against Coyle.
“Every year seems like they’re a different team but then they’re the same team,” Overstreet said. “They always have athletes out there and they’re very skillful in what they do.”
Coyle, 8-3 last season, has proved itself to be a threat even when playing on the road. Since 2017, the Bluejackets are 6-2 when playing on a foreign field.
Overstreet said while the Coyle offense has been known to run wing sets and line up receivers in twins, he expects the Bluejackets to run the ball.
“They’re a hard-nosed team,” he said. “We got to be a rock and not get washed out. That’s something we’ve been preaching all week. We got to stay at home, too, because (Coyle) will be looking to cut back (on the run)."