No matter what happens tonight (Oct. 18) in Saline, the Pioneer football team has had a very good season. Sure, there is pressure on the Pioneers because they set a goal of making the playoffs and beating the Hornets is the only way they will reach that goal.
That said, the Pioneers have had a strong 2019 season under the outstanding leadership of coach William Bellers. They come into Saline with a 4-3 record and have been competitive in the three games they lost, including a heartbreaker at Chelsea. They are one play from 5-2 – but that’s been brought up enough.
What hasn’t been brought up enough is Pioneer led at halftime in their other two losses. They have yet to be blown out and should be competitive again on Friday night at Saline.
Last year, Saline defeated the Pioneers 40-0 but this is a different Pioneer team especially on offense. Their season low in points is 13 – a win in week one. Since then they have averaged 31.5 points per game. They may need to score that – or more – to knock off Saline.
The Hornets steamrolled teams last year on their way to the state semifinals. They held 10 teams to single digits last year and allowed a total of 26 points in their three playoff wins.
But this is a different Saline team – at least by the numbers.
For the third straight year, Saline lost its season opener – to currently undefeated Mount Clemons Chippewa Valley. Their next three games were against a team from Canada, Adrian and Huron. They had a nice win over a solid Monroe team (28-14) and then escaped with a 24-21 win over Bedford.
The 6-1 Hornets have a postseason spot locked up but they want to host a game so they will be playing for keeps on Friday night. And while Saline might not be as good as last year, it’s still Saline. They have been the best team in the area for the past decade – seven straight playoff appearances not counting this season.
The Pioneers don’t need to be perfect to win – although that would help. What they can’t do is jump offsides on third and four, fumble on their own 15-yard line, get called for unsportsmanlike conduct at any time or give up a big play on special teams. They need to play smart and not beat themselves. Make Saline beat you – while they are pretty good at doing that, you have to make them earn it.