Stakes high as Pioneer, Garber resume rivalry

Pioneer’s Leyton Parker gets loose from Cherokee’s Ruston James Sept. 11, 2020, at Pioneer High School.

WAUKOMIS, Okla. — Pioneer’s seniors will be playing for a lot of bragging rights Friday when the Mustangs host rival Garber at 7 p.m. in their homecoming game.

A win gives the Mustang seniors a perfect record in their careers against the Wolverines.

That, though, isn’t the main driving force this week with the contest also being the District B-7 opener for both the 3-0 Wolverines and the 3-2 Mustangs.

“We just play the game,’’ said Pioneer coach Gus Overstreet. “It’s a one-week season. Whoever is in front of us, we got to take care of business.’’

“We haven’t talked a lot about that,’’ said Garber coach Koy Hughes. “Pioneer is the team to beat in our district. You have to beat Pioneer if you want to win the district and get some home playoff games.’’

Overstreet and Hughes, though, know the intensity of the rivalries having played and coached at their alma maters. Their fathers played against each other in the 1970s. Hughes played against Overstreet’s brothers Bryce and Brent.

“It’s always a fun week,’’ Overstreet said. “Everybody knows each other. We know the importance of the game and we know everything going on. You know during Garber week, it’s going to be smash mouth football.’’

“I don’t know what it is, but they have always been our big rival,’’ Hughes said. “I have family members on both sides. A lot of the Pioneer kids went to church with us at Pleasant Vale. Pioneer was the team when I played (95-98). When you play Pioneer, it always has playoff implications.’’

Garber, in Hughes’ sophomore year (1996), upset what would be a state champion Pioneer team, 14-13.

In 1998, Hughes’ senior year, Pioneer defeated what would be a state champion Garber team, 47-28. For a five-year period from 1996-2000, either Pioneer or Garber won the state championship.

Both teams this week are coming off some adversity.

Garber, having outscored opponents 162-28 in a 3-0 start, had games with Pond Creek-Hunter (Sept. 25) and Okeene (Oct. 2) canceled because they were in quarantine from COVID-19. They were able to have a practice last Friday.

“You never want to go against a team like Pioneer not having practiced for two weeks,’’ Hughes said. “It’s been a little rough, but we got everybody back and healthy for this week. We have a long ways to go condition-wise. Mentally, it’s almost like starting over again. We are adjusting. It was rough Monday and Tuesday, but we should be ready to play on Friday. We were a little rusty on Monday but we were a little more physical Tuesday.’’

Pioneer is coming off a 50-14 loss to Laverne wherein the Mustangs were held to half of their rushing average (146) while allowing 325 yards rushing and 210 passing.

“There were a lot of things that went wrong,’’ Overstreet said. “We didn’t play our game and we let them control the game. That was something we addressed this week — getting that fix. We want to make them play our game and not theirs.’’

Overstreet welcomed a bye last week.

“We accomplished a lot,’’ he said. “The boys responded extremely well. It’s sometimes hard to motivate when you don’t have anything to play for that week, but I was happy with the production we got.’’

Overstreet doesn’t think Garber will be hurt by its layoff.

“I don’t see that being a factor,’’ he said. “Laverne was in the same boat last week (two weeks off) and you see how that game went. We have to be prepared to play our game. This gave them a chance to heal up. I’m sure they will be at 100% for us.’’

Pioneer is averaging 37.2 points per game with a number of weapons. Leyton Parker has scored nine touchdowns, while quarterback Ty Dennett has added seven scores. The Mustangs have lost only two fumbles and have thrown two interceptions.

The Wolverines have allowed only one passing touchdown and two rushing touchdowns this season. Coyle only had eight yards of total offense (minus-11 rushing and 19 passing) in a 58-0 loss to Garber on Sept. 18.

Garber quarterback T.J. Bennett has rushed for five touchdowns and thrown for three more. Ty Chester, coming back after missing the 2019 season, has scored seven touchdowns. The Wolverines have lost only two fumbles and Bennett has thrown only one interception

Garber’s defense has forced nine turnovers — five interceptions and four fumble recoveries.

“I think we will have to win the turnover battle,’’ Hughes said. “We have to stay disciplined. We can’t play hero ball. We have to get our reads and tackles.’’

Overstreet and Hughes were reluctant to say if the winner would be in the driver’s seat in B-7. Covington-Douglas enters the district at 4-1. Yale (2-3), Barnsdall (4-1) and Olive (0-4) are new district opponents.

“You can’t have any slip-ups,’’ Overstreet said. “One slip-up and you could go from first to fourth.’’

“I don’t know if the winner will be in the driver’s seat, but it will be hard to climb out of the hole if we don’t get a win,” Hughes said.

Pioneer leads the series, 24-14. Garber’s last win came in 2016, 54-46.

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Campbell is a former sports writer and current part-time writer for the News & Eagle,

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Graduate of Oklahoma City John Marshall (1972) and University of Oklahoma. Been at News & Eagle since June 19, 1978. Previously worked at Oklahoma Journal, Midland, Texas Reporter & Telegram, Norman Transcript, Elk City Daily News

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