The Pioneer football team defeated Anchor Bay in the final seconds of their season opener, leaving the host Tars in tatters. In other words, the Pioneers stole one – QB Conor Easthope scored the winning TD with no time left on the clock for a 13-7 win.
On Friday night in Chelsea, Easthope led another incredible comeback, throwing what appeared to be the winning TD pass with 14 seconds left to take a 17-14 lead over the Bulldogs. But Chelsea had one more play and turned their one chance into a 66-yard TD pass to knock off the visiting Pioneers 21-17 in an SEC crossover game.
In other words, the Bulldogs stole one.
Pioneer’s defense dominated the game – from start to finish. They managed to suffocate anything the usually potent Chelsea offense could throw or run their way and all they needed was the offense to step up and make some plays.
And that’s exactly what they did – at exactly the right time.
Chelsea had the ball with 4 minutes left in the game and a 14-10 lead. The Bulldogs were doing what Bulldogs do – they were trying to run out the clock and not let the talented Easthope get his hands on the football.
After using two time outs, the Pioneers forced a punt and had a chance. But they also had 80 yards between them and where they needed to be.
On a fourth and 11 near midfield, Easthope hit Geffen Peterson-Sand for a huge first down that put the ball at the Chelsea 15-yard line. The Pioneers then threw three consecutive incomplete passes leaving them again with a fourth down.
And once again, Easthope delivered. The junior QB hit Ali Fisher for the TD.
Tierney Fraidenburg kicked the extra point to give the Pioneers a 17-14 lead with just 14 seconds on the clock.
The Pioneers kicked the ball out of bounds but Chelsea made them kick it again. This time, the Bulldogs returned it to their own 35-yard line, leaving 65 yards between where they were and where they needed to be.
“They threw a long pass and we went for the ball instead of keeping the receiver in front of us,” said Pioneer Coach Bill Bellers.
And Chelsea’s Joe Taylor did the rest – running it in for the score with 4 seconds left in the game.
“It’s really a tough loss,” Bellers said. “The kids worked hard and never gave up. We had a great comeback at the end, converting two fourth downs on the final drive and we just got beat by the big play. But we will get back to work, fix what went wrong and prepare for Monroe.”
One area they need to fix is special teams. The Bulldogs turned the opening kickoff into a 7-0 lead and put Pioneer into a hole right away in a stadium that is tough to play for visiting teams.
The special teams got two points back when Chelsea snapped the ball over the punter’s head and the Pioneers tackled him in the end zone for a safety.
Easthope hooked up with Peterson-Sand to give Pioneer its first lead at 8-7. The Pioneers converted the two-point conversion to take a 10-7 lead.
Chelsea scored its second TD when they turned a botched field-goal attempt into six points. The ball rolled to Taylor, who was the holder on the play, and the junior made a play by scooping it up and running in for six points to give the hosts a 14-10 lead.
The only TD Chelsea’s offense scored on the Pioneer defense was on their final offensive play – turns out, that was enough.
Pioneer hosts Monroe for Homecoming on Friday night.