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  • Writer's picturetgardner1167

Panthers Spoil Warriors Night

It was a great night for the Pioneer Panthers on Friday as they rolled previously unbeaten Cheektowaga in their own backyard 33-14. With the win, Pioneer takes sole possession of first place in Class B1 and distinguishes themselves as a front runner in the race to New Era Field for the Section VI championship.

Like last week against Maryvale, the Panthers dialed up Mike Rigerman’s number and the senior delivered the goods, finishing with 247 yards on the ground and four touchdowns.

Ball control was something Pioneer head coach Jim Duprey stressed to his team all week. “Ball possession is huge in games like this,” Duprey said. “Especially when you have an offense like they (Cheektowaga) have and really a great quarterback.”

Coming into this game, the Warriors had not surrendered a single point to their opponents. That all changed in a somewhat unforeseen way Friday. About halfway through the second quarter and backed up to their goal line, Tyler Ely took the handoff from quarterback Nick Rinker and rushed 99 yards for the Panthers first touchdown of the game.

“Bone-45-Power,” Ely said. “We ran that to perfection. Our line, everybody on this team did their jobs tonight.”

The Pioneer defense came up big before the half, stunting a quality drive by the Warriors, capped off with a sack of 2017 Connolly Cup finalist Keshone Beal. Prior to the play, Beal hit his favorite target Tamell Bass with a 44 yard pass that brought the Warriors down to the Pioneer 2-yard line. With time winding down, instead of trying for a field goal, Cheektowaga ran a play. The design was for Beal to roll to his right and either find an open receiver or rush in for the score. Beal slipped on the turf and was met by a throng of Pioneer defenders.

To say the weather played a factor Friday would be a gross understatement. The wind was atrocious. Yet Cheektowaga continued to pass the ball well into the fourth quarter. Beal has a strong arm but even he had difficulty hitting targets that he normally makes look routine.

The Warriors caught a break early in the second half. Pioneer turned the ball over on downs inside their own 10, thanks to poor punt execution.

Beal scored a 3-yard TD that helped tie the game at 7.

That’s when Rigerman (the man who fumbled the punt snap) really went to work. Capitalizing on a front seven that until now, really hasn’t been given the credit they deserve. Rigerman scored his first TD, a 6-yard scamper giving Pioneer the lead once again, 14-7.

On the next Warriors possession, the Panthers defense forced a fumble. Rigerman recovered and soon after was screaming towards the end zone from 26-yards out, extending the Pioneer lead 20-7 (extra point try was unsuccessful).

Cheektowaga’s Beal capped off a nice drive with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Bass. It was an impressive opening drive for the Warriors to start the fourth quarter that lasted over six minutes.

Rigerman followed up with his third TD, this time a 59 yard run that seemed to suck the life out of Cheektowaga, putting Pioneer up 26-14 with 3:43 left to play.

A fourth TD run by Rigerman (a 1-yard rush) put the game out of reach.

For Cheektowaga (3-1), the loss could be what the doctor ordered. The Warriors are still going to be viewed as the cream of the crop in B. Now they know where they need to improve. The road ahead however is daunting. Next week the Warriors host Lackawanna, a number of Steelers were in attendance Friday night. Cheektowaga then takes on Lew-Port (0-3) before closing out the regular season at home against rival Maryvale (3-1).

The challenge for Pioneer, is staying grounded. “I’m extremely proud of what these guys have done but there is still a lot of work to do,” Duprey said. “This was just another game, win or lose, we still have more games to play; the season did not end tonight no matter what.”

The Panthers have a favorable schedule remaining, two home dates against Lew-Port, Lake Shore and then the finale against Springville on the road.

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