Just two ticks and 4 minutes remained in the game and Pioneer was staring defeat straight in the face and it appeared there was nothing they could do about it. Visiting Monroe had the Pioneers right where they wanted on this Homecoming Friday night in Ann Arbor.
They not only had a 21-12 lead but they had the ball on the Pioneer 2-yard line.
It was fourth down. Monroe needed one yard for a first down and two yards to stick this game in the win column. Little did the Trojans realize that they were about to become a chapter in one crazy Pioneer storybook of a season – and it’s only week four.
Somehow, the Trojans were called for delay of game just before they snapped the ball. That pushed them from the 2 to the 7 – and that certainly forced a change in the play call. Still, even if they don’t score, the Pioneers would have to score twice in the final 4 minutes (flip back to week one to see how much time the Pioneers need to score twice).
Monroe QB Wyatt Head, who was having a spectacular game, ran the ball to his team’s side of the field to avoid heavy pressure and lofted a ball up for grabs. Pioneer’s Owen Aldridge intercepted the ball at the goal line and ended up crossing the other goal line – yes, the one located 100 yards down the field. The senior defensive back picked the ball out of the air and ran right down the Monroe sideline all the way to six points.
Easthope ran in the two-point conversion and Pioneer cut the lead to 21-20 with 3:44 to play in the game. All the Pioneers needed was the ball back – they would get it back, although probably not how they wanted.
Opportunity was not only knocking for Pioneer, it also was screaming and kicking and exploding on a crazy night about to get crazier. The momentum had swung from red to purple on one play and everyone in the building knew where this game was heading.
Head made up for the interception right away when he tossed a 78-yard TD pass on his first throw post pick six. It was another big play for the Trojans, who tacked on the extra point. Still, it was a one possession game at 28-20 and Easthope and his talented receivers had been here before.
Plus, the Pioneers got what they wanted – the ball back.
Pioneer didn’t even need the entire 1:53 left on the clock, either.
Kenny Atkins got things rolling with an excellent kick return to the 49-yard line of Monroe. The Pioneers moved the ball to the 29-yard line, and with 46 seconds left, Easthope threw a pass to Matthew Waddington, who took it down to the 2-yard line.
Easthope took it from there, cutting the lead to 28-26 with 18 seconds left, on a run up the middle. The strong-willed junior QB tossed a perfect strike to Ali Fisher for the two-point conversion.
With 18 seconds left, the game was tied. And everyone knew where this was headed.
In overtime, Monroe scored first but missed the extra point.
There was little doubt that the Pioneers would score. But they did it in just one play when Easthope rolled out and beat the Monroe defender to the corner for the score. Miles Gutman kicked the extra point and somehow, someway, the Pioneers won 35-34 over the stunned Trojans of Monroe.
Welcome to Pioneer football – 2019 style.
Pioneer improves to 2-2 on the season with rival Skyline coming up on Friday.
The Trojans struck first on a 20-yard TD pass on their first possession of the game. Monroe led 7-0 with 9:48 left to play in the opening quarter.
After Pioneer had to punt, the Trojans struck again – this time on one long play. Head went right up the middle and ran 80 yards for another Monroe score to give the visitors a 14-0 lead with 6:02 to play in the first quarter.
The Pioneers answered with a strong drive down the field that started in the first quarter and ended in the second quarter. It also ended in the end zone with six points following a 1-yard run up the middle by Kenny Atkins.
The extra point missed but Pioneer had cut the deficit to 14-6 with 11:36 left in the second quarter.
After a three-and-out by Monroe, the Pioneers again started marching down the field. But the drive ended on a missed 35-yard field goal.
With less than a minute to go, the Pioneers appeared to have stopped the Trojans from adding to their lead. But on fourth-and-27 at the Pioneer 32-yard line, the Trojans completed a pass right down the middle for a TD with just 48 seconds left in the first half.
Monroe led 21-6 at halftime.
The Pioneers began the second half with a big play. Shamar Trusty ran the kickoff back to the Monroe 33-yard line. After an Easthope TD was called back for holding, the drive ended without points. Easthope made an incredible scramble to keep a fourth-down play alive, but under threw an open receiver in the end zone and the ball was intercepted.
After the Pioneer defense held, Easthope delivered a sweet ball down the sideline to Joe Daily, who made a nice grab and took off all the way to the Monroe 16-yard line. A pass to Trusty moved the ball to the 6-yard line. Easthope took it in himself from the 1-yard line for the score.
The extra point missed, but Pioneer had cut the lead to 21-12 with 8:32 left in the fourth quarter.