Football Playoff Preview: Pioneers face difficult assignment with top-seed Saline

This isn’t going to be easy. The playoffs never are, and even tough every team qualified for the postseason this year, this is relatively new territory for the three Ann Arbor public schools.

Pioneer reached the playoffs for the first time since 2015 last year and lost 50-21 in the opening game. Since starting the program in 2010, Skyline has never reached the postseason and have never won more than four games in a season. Huron last played in the postseason in 2002 (17-14 loss to Pioneer) and have won just seven games since 2010 – and two of those wins were this year.

So the locals aren’t exactly bursting with playoff experience. And to make matters worse, they are all playing on the road on Friday night and against higher seeds.

Pioneer, Huron and Skyline are all in Division 1, District 2.


Coach Bill Bellers has a few things in his corner heading into Friday’s playoff game. He knows his team will give 100 percent, play hard until the end and do everything they can to prepare for the game.

Unfortunately, even all that might not matter.

The Pioneers have by far the biggest challenge of not only any Ann Arbor school but any school in the area. Pioneer avoided Saline in the regular season but there is no way around them in the postseason as the Hornets went 5-1 to earn the District’s top seed and home-field advantage.   

Up until their final regular-season game, the Hornets crushed everyone on their schedule and scored 33 or more points in every victory. They scored 48 or more three times.

Saline’s only loss was a 14-13 setback last Friday against Grand Blanc (5-1).

The Hornets are quite familiar with the postseason. They have qualified eight years in a row and won at least one playoff game in six of those seasons. And one more alarming statistic – the Hornets have not lost two games in a row since 2011.

The Pioneers came into the 2020 season with high expectations. But the lockdown, and then an injury to starting QB Conor Easthope in the first game, really changed everything for the purple and white. They have tried extremely hard and have never quit on their coaches, their school or themselves. They have lost some close games including to Huron and Ypsilanti, but Saline is at a whole different level than most teams in the state.

Pairings for the first four weeks of the tournament are based on regular-season playoff point averages, with the highest-ranked team hosting, regardless of the distance between the two schools. For District First Round and Regional First Round play, the top-seeded team in each bracket will host the eighth-seeded team; and the second-seeded team will host the seventh-seeded team, etc.


* All games are at 7 p.m., Friday

Ann Arbor Pioneer (0-5) 9.500 at Saline (5-1) 66.533

Ann Arbor Huron (2-2) 31.000 at Kalamazoo Central (2-4) 33.567

Kalamazoo Loy Norrix (0-6) 10.167 at Grand Ledge (4-2) 51.100

Ann Arbor Skyline (1-4) 20.000 at Holt (2-3) 38.167