Pioneers have key game ahead at Bellefontaine


A Graham receiver stretches to try and catch the ball against Jonathan Alder’s Victor Fenik (1). The Pioneers will travel to Bellefontaine on Friday for a game that is critical to the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Divisional race and for state playoff computer points.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Chad Williamson)
First place is on the line in the Central Buckeye Conference’s Kenton Trail football race this week.
The Jonathan Alder Pioneers will travel to Bellefontaine on Friday for a battle between two teams that have yet to lose a divisional game.
Alder is 5-2 overall and 1-0 in the division after last week’s victory over Kenton Ridge.
The Chieftains (5-2 overall) have won their two KR Division games against Kenton Ridge and Tecumseh.
“We’re the only two teams in the division without a loss,” said JA coach Brett Glass. “Both teams also have playoff aspirations, so there are a lot of computer points on the line.”
The Chieftains are a spread formation team that operates out of the shotgun.
They are led by quarterback Grant Smith and tailback Garrett Gross.
“They want to run the football,” said Glass. “They are focused on their ground game to the point where they run the ball about 75 percent of the time.”
Gross is averaging approximately 20 carries per game and makes the most of those opportunities.
“He’s averaging six or more yards per carry,” said Glass. “He’s the guy they really lean on.”
Smith can also move the sticks with his legs as he’s rushed for 400 yards through seven games.
Bellefontaine will rarely go to the air, but when Smith does, his favorite target is Jack Clement, who averages 15 yards per catch.
“They’ve gone to him for some big plays,” said Glass.
The Chieftains’ running game works between the tackles of a big offensive line that features beefy guys like Ethan Swingley (330), Anthony Snapp (225), Jacob Kidwell (230) and Quinton Bible (225).
“Their line is big and strong,” said Glass. “We’re going to have to get off their blocks to stop their running game. It’s going to be a little different challenge for us.”
Bellefontaine will employ a 4-3 defense.
“Their line and linebackers are big and physical,” said Glass. “They are very good at stopping the run.”
The Pioneers’ offense is built around its ground game.
Therefore, this game is going to match “strength vs. strength,” according to Glass.
“No one has had much success running the ball against Bellefontaine,” he said. “Our offensive line is going to have to be solid with its blocks and execute the fundamentals in order for us to be able to run the ball.”
If the running game is shut down, sophomore quarterback T.J. Keith will need to be spot-on to his targets.
“We’ll also need to be able to throw it and be as balanced as possible,” said Glass. “We also can’t have any turnovers in a big game.”

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