A little more than a year ago, Ann Arbor Huron defeated Ecorse to open the season and snapped its 39-game losing streak, the longest in the state at the time which dated to 2014.
On Friday night, Huron snapped another streak with an 18-8 road victory over Pioneer, its first win over their crosstown rival in 17 tries.
“It really feels great,” said Huron head coach Antaiwn Mack. “My heart was aching before we started for the kids, who hadn’t beaten Pioneer since 2002, so we pushed hard to get my guys ready. I’m overwhelmed with joy and happiness for our kids right now.”
Mack said the victory was a needed step in the right direction for the program.
“I’m so happy for my guys that we finally beat them and to get another win. We’re moving in the right direction,” Mack said.
Huron got off to a dream start, outscoring the Pioneers 16-0 in the first quarter. The River Rats strung together a 13-play, 55-yard scoring drive to open the game that saw it convert two fourth downs, capped off by a 1 yard touchdown run from quarterback Anthony Pinnace. Adam Samaha’s extra point gave Huron a 7-0 lead with 5:41 remaining in the first quarter.
For Pioneer, a tough situation in losing star quarterback Conor Easthope to injury last week was compounded by a nightmare start. After allowing a 35-yard completion from Pinnace on third-and-36 on Huron’s opening drive and then the touchdown, Pioneer fumbled the kickoff and was forced to start at its own 1-yard line. Huron promptly forced a safety on the next play as Pioneer’s Ali Fisher was tackled in the end zone by a host of River Rats.
Less than 2 minutes later, Pioneer unraveled further when Huron recovered a fumble inside the Pioneers’ 10-yard line. On fourth down, Pinnace dodged a tackler in the backfield and scrambled up the right side for a 1 yard touchdown, his second of the game. Samaha’s extra point was good, increasing Huron’s lead to 16-0 with 3:44 remaining in the first quarter.
Mack credited Pinnace’s playmaking for Huron to build its early lead.
“[Anthony] Pinnace is a tremendous athlete,” Mack said. “He can make plays in space and make guys miss. He’s a great playmaker and a good kid to have in the program.”
Neither team cracked the scoresheet in a second quarter dominated by turnovers. Pioneer had two chances inside Huron territory, but turned it over on downs both times, including a dropped pass that would’ve given it a first down in the red zone in the closing minutes of the first half.
Huron’s defensive line was suffocating all night, particularly in the early stages of the second half. After two sacks forced Pioneer’s offense into the shadow of its own end zone, defensive end Kingsley Perkins pressured Fisher, who fumbled the ball out of the end zone for a second Huron safety. The River Rats led 18-0 with 9:58 remaining in the third quarter.
Huron’s line came up big again early in the fourth quarter. Pioneer drove the ball into River Rats’ territory, but was thwarted after three consecutive sacks, two by Jesse Newpol, forcing Pioneer to punt with less than 9 minutes remaining.
Perhaps Pioneer’s biggest squandered chance of the game came with about 3 minutes remaining, when a penalty canceled a touchdown on a trick play. A dropped pass in the end zone on the ensuing play ended Pioneer’s drive on downs.
Pioneer finally scored on a 6-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Grant Nelson to John Lamphere with 1:35 remaining. Nelson threaded a perfect pass into the corner of the end zone to Trusty Shamar for the two-point conversion, cutting Huron’s lead to 18-8.
Huron recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock.
Huron (1-1) faces Ypsilanti (0-3) next Friday at Ypsilanti High School. Pioneer (0-2) hosts Monroe (2-1) next Friday.