Jonathan Alder’s Will Heisler (26) looks for running room as Scottie Wallace (right) blocks against Thornville Sheridan. The Pioneers will travel to Tecumseh on Friday.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)
Things were admittedly looking pretty glum for Jonathan Alder’s football squad a month ago.
After all, the Pioneers (who have been accustomed to state playoff berths over the past couple of decades), were sitting on an 0-3 mark after losses to Amanda Clearcreek, Thornville Sheridan and Bloom Carroll.
While the setbacks hurt, looking back on what has transpired this season, they aren’t as disastrous as originally thought.
The teams the Pioneers fell to during the first three weeks of the campaign now have a combined record of 20-4.
Bloom Carroll stands unbeaten at 8-0 and Sheridan sports a 7-1 mark.
Life has certainly changed for the Pioneers over the past five weeks.
Alder stunned North Union (7-1) during the middle of September and has won four of its past five games.
The Pioneers drubbed Bellefontaine (5-3) by a 42-7 count last Friday and have raised their record to 4-4.
They will be looking to up their mark past .500 when they travel to Tecumseh (3-5) on Friday.
The Arrows run the Wing T offense behind a good-sized offensive line.
“Everybody on that team has good size,” said Jonathan Alder coach Nathan Snedeker.
Tecumseh doesn’t have one super running back, but certainly has quality depth in the backfield.
Josiah Botello leads the ground game with 470 yards on 106 carries.
Lucas Berner has picked up 335 yards, followed by Jackson Berner (292) and Caedon Sagraves (268).
They have combined for 13 rushing touchdowns.
“They all run hard and dare you to stop their attack,” said Snedeker.
The Arrows’ passing numbers aren’t spectacular.
Quarterback Nate Cory has completed only 33 passes in 73 attempts for 359 yards. He has yet to throw a touchdown pass and has suffered eight interceptions.
“Still, they’re not afraid to throw the ball,” said Snedeker. “However, they know their ground game is their strength.”
The Alder coach, however, said physical and aggressive play on both sides of the pigskin are Tecumseh’s traits.
“It’s going to be another physical, four-quarter game,” said Snedeker. “We’re used to it, having played London, Kenton Ridge and Bellefontaine the past few weeks.
“Actually, the Central Buckeye Conference is a very physical conference across the board,” he said. “It really started for us with the North Union game, even though that was a crossover contest.
“We will have to meet and surpass Tecumseh’s style of physical play.”
The Arrows’ defense will look to clog the middle of the line against the Pioneers’ ground game.
Carter Mansell and Bishop Cooper are a couple of huge linemen with respective sizes of 6-3, 320 and 6-4, 280.
“They, however, just don’t fill the middle,” said Snedeker. “Their defensive linemen can move and are able to run to the edges.
“We’re not going to be able to stretch them out like you might expect.”
The Arrows will have to contend with JA running back Cameron Jewell, who is the CBC’s fifth-leading rusher.
Jewell has rushed for 721 yards on 82 carries (an 8.8 per carry average).
He has taken over the main rushing duties for the Pioneers.
The Arrows, however, can’t count out Alder’s Will Heisler, who has rushed for 332 yards on 64 attempts.
Snedeker, though, knows offensive linemen such as Andrew McGlaughlin, Aidan Burke and Wyatt Bruce are going to have to “move some people” in order to get the Alder ground game going.
“This is a game that’s going to be all about trench warfare,” he said. “Everything is going to start there.”
The Pioneers will look to win their fifth game out of the last six… something that may not have seemed possible after September’s difficult start.
Snedeker said he has seen vast improvement from his squad over the past month.
“Our offensive line has come along in a big way,” he said, “and our running backs have gotten a lot better.
“Tabor (Headings) has grown quite a bit at quarterback,” said Snedeker.
Headings has completed 60.7% of his passes for 604 yards.
The Alder coach said the past five weeks have been extremely important to the growth of the team.
“These four wins have boosted our confidence,” he said. “These guys know there is a great tradition to Jonathan Alder football.
“They’ve never lost sight of what they want to accomplish this year.”