By BEAU WICKER For the Kokomo Tribune
---- — ROYAL CENTER — Pioneer has one of the top small-school programs in the state and expects to be a top contender for the Class A state championship this season.
But on Friday night, the Panthers were no match for their Cass County rivals to the south, the Lewis Cass Kings.
The Class 2A No. 7-ranked Kings took it to the No. 2-ranked Panthers in a 29-0 win in a season-opening game.
The 29-point victory marked the largest margin of victory for either team since the series began in 2007. The Kings are now 5-2 all-time against Pioneer.
“Ooh, that was ugly, that was a butt-kicking by a program,” Pioneer coach Mike Johnson said. “Cass right there shows you what a great program they have. That’s a program: tough kids and well-coached.”
The Kings had their JV offense on the field by early in the fourth quarter. How did it get that bad to that point? The Kings were able to wear out the Panthers’ defense while at the same time stopping their offense throughout.
Pioneer had just one first down going into the fourth quarter and finished with just 29 yards rushing for the game and 48 yards passing on 11 attempts. Meanwhile, the Kings racked up 263 yards on the ground and finished with 17 first downs to Pioneer’s three.
The Kings had about three times as many players as the Panthers did warming up on the field and depth was a factor.
“Particularly in the first half when the sun was out and it was hot, I think that made a huge difference,” Cass coach Scott Mannering said. “We actually had nine guys that played both sides but nobody plays both ways really. So we tried to get a lot of water in everybody and make sure guys are rotating. That’s something we’re going to try to do throughout the whole year and hopefully that will make us stronger. But I thought that worked to our advantage in the first half.”
The Kings fumbled away their first possession of the season but were able to stop the Panthers from converting on a short field. The big play was a Kyle Dwiggins sack that may have saved an early score.
The Kings were able to take advantage of a short field after a Pioneer fumble and Payton Young scored from 2 yards out late in the first quarter for the first touchdown of the season.
Young added a 14-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and made several big plays from his outside linebacker spot on defense.
Owen Ohman scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak on a fourth-down play in the third quarter and added a 17-yard TD pass to Leland Bowling on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it a 29-0 game.
Fullback Gabe Welch led the Kings with 113 yards rushing on 12 carries.
The Kings sacked Pioneer quarterback Sam Kiser four times in the shutout, with Dwiggins getting to him twice and one each for John Hartley and Cody Campbell.