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Familiarity breeds respect for Central Catholic, Pioneer

November 4, 2012
Lafayette Central Catholic High School

Central Catholic football players can expect one inevitability during every state tournament.

The moment might come in the opening round, the semifinals or the championship. Sooner or later, to win a Class A, Sectional 34 title, the Knights must beat Pioneer.

“They’re a good team, we’re a good team,” CC junior center Gage Ulery said. “We just keep on battling back and forth, and it’s fun. Every year the rivalry continues. We just keep on seeing each other.”

For the fourth straight season, Central Catholic and Pioneer meet in the sectional with impressive records and lofty state rankings. The Knights won the previous three, by a combined 107-18, en route to Class A state championships.

After tonight, the programs —both 10-1 this season — will have met in three sectional finals since 2005. Pioneer coach Mike Johnson says he doesn’t believe the Knights have suffered much of a drop-off in 2012.

Johnson, 179-71 in his 22nd season, said his team must move the ball better than in its previous three meetings with CC.

“As is always the case this late in the tournament against a very good team, No. 1, we have to limit penalties and turnovers,” Johnson said. “Those are killer for our offense. We can’t afford to have cheap penalties that put us first and 15 as opposed to first and 10. First and 10 is tough enough.”

Pioneer sustained a big loss when starting quarterback and cornerback Mitchell Williams broke his wrist against Tri-County on Oct. 5. Freshman Sam Kiser shifted over from halfback, and the Panthers extended their winning streak to 10 games.

Johnson said Kiser benefited from extra quarterback reps over the summer while Williams dealt with an Achilles’ heel injury. Pioneer will be just the second wing-T team CC has played this season, but also its second in as many weeks.

While semifinal opponent Caston ran the wing-T, the Comets weren’t as prolific with it as Pioneer. Led by Midwest ConferencePlayer of the Year Joey Miller, the Panthers average 359 rushing yards and 38.1 points per game.

“We have to play with a sense of urgency and come out on the first play, and really smack them and not let them smack us,” CC junior linebacker Nigel Hensley said.

For the first time in three years, Pioneer won’t have to worry about limiting Danny Anthrop. Fullback Brad Schrader has been the Knights’ go-to player on offense, often grinding out second-half yards to eat the clock to help seal up a victory.

Yet Johnson said the Panthers can’t sleep on the explosive players in CC’s offense, including receiver Timmy Mills and wingback Will Jones.

“You’d better know (Mills) is out there on the edge and they will throw it over your head any time to him,” Johnson said. “They have athletes all over the place that can run and catch.”

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