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  • Writer's picturetgardner1167

Pioneer looking to take next step

It wasn’t the classic ‘win and in’ scenario, but the Pioneer Panthers football team controlled their own destiny as they went in their final regular season game last year.

After going 2-2 in league play, the Panthers still had a shot at making the Class B playoffs. But in order to do so they not only needed to beat Burgard but outscore the Bulldogs by at least 20 points.

They won by 27.

“When coach told us we had to win by 20, we were all like ‘I don’t know’ but when we got out on the field we realized we could do it,” senior Mike Rigerman said. “It shows that when we set a goal, we reach it.”

After the week seven victory the Panthers earned the No. 8 seed in the playoffs. Unfortunately, they fell to top seed Lackawanna, 32-0, the next week.

“The kids made a big step forward,” Pioneer coach Jim Duprey said, “but I think that we were just satisfied getting there and it can’t be like that.”

The Panthers will look to take another step forward as most of last year’s 6-3 (3-2 Class B1) team returns.

Senior Nick Rinker returns for his third year as the starting quarterback for the Panthers. Rinker threw for nearly 400 yards and five touchdowns last season.

“We are on the same page,” Dupery said. “We’re able to explore more options. You can do different things with a three-year quarterback.”

Rigerman made a school record 122 tackles in 2017. He was also the team’s top receiver and had 629 all-purpose yards and 11 touchdowns last year. He will be the feature back this season.

“He’s a freak of nature,” Rinker said of Rigerman. “It’s nice to have guys like him on 3rd and 15 to throw it up and he can go get it.”

Joining Rigerman in the backfield will be classmate RB/LB Tyler Ellis.

The Panthers are excited to bring up some talent from last year’s 6-2 JV team, especially junior Tra’e Hill who ran for over 1,400 yards says Dupery.

Seniors Trevor Smith and Lane Patton are expected to be key on the both the offensive and defensive lines.

Pioneer is also welcoming in senior transfer Nate Agosti.

Duprey is happy that he has enough depth this year that the Panthers didn’t need to bring up any sophomores or underclassmen this season.

The Panthers’ lose their top two rushers from last season in Caleb Riordan and Wake Kless to graduation.

After reaching the post season last year, the Panthers would certainly like to get back but their road to get there will be tough.

Pioneer resides in the Class B1 division with has both of last year’s Class B finalists and now Iroquois, who dropped from Class A this season.

“We all want to say ‘we want to go to the stadium’,” Duprey said, ‘but if you look to right that your sadly mistaken. We have to start with East Aurora week one and then we go through the gauntlet. We’ll know who we are pretty quick into the season.”

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