Football: Pioneers struggle in second half, fall to St. Johns (with WLAA photogallery)

With a few minutes until halftime, the Pioneers were celebrating a nice TD run by their gifted quarterback that gave them a “comfortable” 26-14 lead. But getting comfortable is never easy and putting away a team as good as St. Johns is never easy – as the Pioneers, unfortunately, discovered on Friday night.

St. Johns scored a TD in the final 5 minutes of the second half and then outscored their hosts 26-7 in the second half as their defense tightened and the offense took off in a 46-33 win over Pioneer. The Redwings, who lost 27-0 in their opener against a very good East Lansing team, made more than adjustments at halftime, they made plays on both sides of the ball.

Pioneer, trying to get to six wins and make the playoffs for the first time in four seasons, falls to 1-1. And the schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Pioneers who face Chelsea on the road next week. The Bulldogs are 2-0 with nice wins over Dexter and Pinckney to open the season.  

Pioneer had a nice offensive showing, especially in the first half. They finished with 404 yards of total offense (246 passing, 158 rushing). Leading the way was Conor Easthope. The junior quarterback was 18 of 36 for 246 yards passing and four touchdowns. He also had 12 rushes for 70 yards and a score.    


Junior receiver Ali Fisher had a strong game with five receptions for 85 yards and two touchdowns. Geffen Peterson-Sand also had a big game. The senior caught four passes for 96 yards and a score.

Jad Merie (8 tackles) and Jared Kinsherf (6 tackles) led the defense.

St. Johns took advantage of a successful fake punt and took a 7-0 lead with 7:05 left in the opening quarter on a 53-yard TD run.   

But the Pioneers came right back. Easthope rolled to his right and fired a perfect strike to Fisher in the end zone to cut the deficit to 7-6 with 5:25 left in the first quarter.


But the Redwings came right back – on the next play as they returned the kickoff for a TD and a 14-6 lead.

A pass from Easthope to Kenny Atkins, who made a great run after the catch, moved the ball deep into St. Johns territory. The Pioneers then converted a fourth and six on a pass from Easthope to Peterson-Sand and scored on a three-yard TD pass from Easthope to Will Harris.

The extra point was blocked again but Pioneer had cut the deficit to 14-12.

The Pioneers took their first lead of the game on a 25-yard TD pass from Easthope to Fisher with 9:49 left in the first half. Easthope ran in the two points to give the home team a 20-14 lead.


Easthope then used his feet for another Pioneer TD. The junior took off up the middle, cut to his right and beat the St. Johns defense to the corner of the end zone to finish off a 29-yard TD run. The two-point conversion failed but the Pioneers led 26-14 with 4:48 left in the half.

St. Johns scored with 1:49 left to send the game into halftime trailing 26-20.

The Redwings dominated the second half and it all began with a blocked punt early in the third quarter. On fourth and three, they converted an 8-yard TD pass to take a 27-26 lead with 7:55 left in the third quarter.

Pioneer then messed up another punt giving the ball to St. Johns at the 30-yard line. The visitors then converted a fourth-and-nine at the Pioneer 19-yard line and scored on the next play on an eight-yard TD run to take a 33-26 lead with 2:05 left in the third.

An interception (the ball was deflected in the air on a pass over the middle) near midfield gave the ball back to St. Johns and they cashed it in on a five-yard TD run to push the lead to 40-26 with 9:37 left in the game.


Pioneer came right back to make it a one-score game and give themselves a chance for another comeback victory. Easthope threw a 65-yard TD pass to Peterson-Sand to cut the lead to 40-33 with 9:11 left in the game.

The Pioneers got the ball back and pulled off a couple of first downs as they started to move the ball. But an interception with 4:29 left in the game ended the drive – and a 49-yard TD run on the next play ended the game as the Redwings stretched the lead to 46-33.

St. Johns had their third INT of the second half with 3:02 left in the game that sealed that deal.