When Skyline quarterback Addison Taylor-Colquillard completed a 16-yard touchdown pass to receiver Andrew Lafferty midway through the third quarter, converting a fourth-and-11 and cutting Pioneer’s lead to 16-8, it looked like Friday night’s crosstown rivalry was going to go down to the wire.
The Pioneers, who have played their fair share of tight games this season, didn’t want another down-to-the-wire battle. Pioneer’s Shamar Trusty made sure it wasn’t.
On the ensuing kickoff, Trusty picked up a loose ball, found a hole on the left side and ran untouched down the sideline for a touchdown. In the blink of an eye, the one-score game that Skyline had battled hard to create was gone.
Pioneer went on to a 29-14 win over the visiting Eagles in an SEC Red Divisional contest at Hollway Field on Friday, winning the first of two consecutive games against its crosstown rivals and improving to 3-2 on the season and 2-0 in the SEC Red Division.
Coach Bill Bellers said that his Pioneers would get that late touchdown back and push the lead back to a crucial two scores.
“Our special team’s coordinator rallied those guys, fired them up, and said, ‘We’re going to get this back,’” Bellers said. “After they thought they got some momentum back that definitely played a big role in taking the momentum back for us.”
But that is what rivalry games often are – a battle of momentum and emotion. Pioneer will face its other crosstown rival, Ann Arbor Huron (1-4, 0-2 SEC Red), at Huron High School next week.
Skyline drops to 0-5 with the loss (0-2 SEC Red) and will travel to Monroe next week.
Bellers said that as the big games down the stretch quickly approach his team would continue focusing on getting better.
“We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing,” he said. “It’s business as usual for us.”
The first drive of the game saw Skyline move the ball deep into Pioneer territory.
The Eagles converted on two separate third downs and a fourth down to keep the drive alive, courtesy of two receptions and a 9-yard run by receiver Jordan Wilson. Skyline was forced into a second fourth down after two drops near the goal line and failed to score after Taylor-Colquillard’s pass sailed out of the back of the end zone.
Skyline’s drive lasted 16 plays and took nearly 8 minutes off the clock, but the Eagles had nothing to show for it.
The teams then traded a couple punts during the rest of the first quarter.
Pioneer started its third possession of the game at its own 43-yard line after a short punt, and its offense made a key adjustment by switching to an up-tempo style that left Skyline’s defense a few steps behind.
Pioneer needed only two runs by senior running back Kenny Atkins to cross into Skyline territory for the first time on the night. Four plays later, after Atkins converted a third-and-short, Pioneer quarterback Conor Easthope rolled to his right and found Ali Fisher, who made a sliding catch for a 16-yard gain into the Eagles’ red zone.
Three plays later, Pioneer’s up-tempo offense struck on a 1-yard touchdown run by Atkins as Skyline was caught trying to substitute players. Tierney Fraidenburg’s extra point was good, and the score was 7-0 with 5:04 remaining in the second quarter.
Late in the first half, rain began pouring down, and both teams had difficulty controlling the football. Three possessions in a row ended on fumbles, with Skyline fumbling twice and Pioneer fumbling once.
Pioneer took over on its own 47-yard line after Skyline’s second fumble late in the first half, and the Pioneers would put more points on the board before halftime.
Pioneer moved into field-goal range after receiver Geffen Peterson-Sand came down with a leaping 38-yard reception over two Skyline defenders on the first play of the drive. The drive stalled after Atkins was stuffed by the meat of Skyline’s defense on third down, but Miles Gutman nailed a 26-yard field goal to increase the lead to 10-0 in the final seconds of the first half.
Pioneer led 10-0 at half.
Pioneer’s rushing attack netted 32 yards on the first three plays of their opening drive of the second half to move the ball to the Skyline 30-yard line. Three plays later, the Pioneers converted a third-and-long as Easthope completed the pass to Trusty who skirted the sideline down to the Eagles’ 5-yard line.
Pioneer scored on the next play as Easthope called his own number, ran up the middle and lowered his shoulder into a Skyline defender to reach the end zone, capping off a seven play, 61-yard drive. The extra point was blocked, and Pioneer led 16-0 with 9:55 remaining in the third quarter.
Skyline got on the board on its next drive. Taylor-Colquillard connected with senior receiver Anthony Henry four times on the drive, including one on fourth down, to move the ball into the red zone for the first time in the game.
Skyline’s second fourth-down conversion on the drive was the 16-yard touchdown pass from Taylor-Colquillard to Lafferty in the corner of the end zone. Skyline converted the two-point conversion as Taylor-Colquillard found Henry once again to cut Pioneer’s lead to 16-8 with 5:50 remaining in the third quarter.
Trusty scored the crucial kick return touchdown that changed the momentum on a dime.
“It was one of those rolling kicks that was on the ground for a long time, and sometimes that’s beneficial, because the coverage will outrun it,” Bellers said about the return. “We broke contain, our returner [Trusty] broke the corner, and Matthew Wadlington had a great lead block.”
Skyline had a chance to make the contest a one-score game again, but Pioneer’s Wadlington came up with a huge interception and the Eagles were thwarted once again.
Skyline got the ball back in enemy territory with less than 9 minutes left in the fourth quarter after stopping Pioneer, and the Eagles wasted no time scoring. Taylor-Colquillard found receiver Jonas Morton wide open breaking towards the end zone, and he delivered a perfectly thrown ball that was caught by Morton for a touchdown.
However, Skyline was unable to cut Pioneer’s lead to one score after a bad snap doomed the extra-point attempt. Pioneer still led by two scores, 23-14, with 8:31 remaining in the game.
Skyline’s defense came up with a stop, giving its offense the ball back with just under 7 minutes left in the game. But the Eagles turned the ball over on downs after four incompletions and Pioneer took over at Skyline’s 35-yard line.
After Easthope picked up 15 yards on a quarterback keeper to give the Pioneers a goal-to-go, Atkins scored his second rushing touchdown of the game, from five yards out, padding Pioneer’s lead. The Pioneers came up empty on a two-point attempt, but led 29-14 with only 3:19 left in the game.
Skyline had two more offensive possessions, but both ended in fumbles, with Jordan Garrett and Connor Smith each recovering one for Pioneer.
5:04 – Pioneer – Kenny Atkins 1 yard TD run (Tierney Fraidenburg kick) – Pioneer 7, Skyline 0
0:01 – Pioneer – Miles Gutman 26 yard field goal – Pioneer 10, Skyline 0
9:55 – Pioneer – Conor Easthope 5 yard TD run (PAT fails) – Pioneer 16, Skyline 0
5:50 – Skyline – Andrew Lafferty 16 yard TD pass from Addison Taylor-Colquillard (2-pt. conversion succeeds) – Pioneer 16, Skyline 8
5:36 – Pioneer – Shamar Trusty kickoff return TD (Fraidenburg kick) – Pioneer 23, Skyline 8
8:31 – Skyline – Jonas Morton 46 yard TD pass from Taylor-Colquillard (PAT fails) – Pioneer 23, Skyline 14
3:19 – Pioneer – Atkins 5 yard TD run (2-pt. conversion fails) – Pioneer 29, Skyline 14
Other SEC Red Division Scores
Temperance Bedford 42, Ann Arbor Huron 7
Saline 28, Monroe 14
SEC Red Division Standings
Saline (4-1, 2-0 SEC Red)
Temperance Bedford (4-1, 2-0 SEC Red)
Pioneer (3-2, 2-0 SEC Red)
Monroe (1-4, 0-2 SEC Red)
Huron (1-4, 0-2 SEC Red)
Skyline (0-5, 0-2 SEC Red)