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Pioneer Runs Past Iroquois 42-14

One week after shutting out East Aurora-Holland in their season opener 29-0, the Pioneer Panthers football team once again took it to their opponent. This time, routing the Iroquois Chiefs 42-14 on Friday night.

The game was all about senior running back Mike Rigerman who alone outgained the Iroquois offense. Rigerman finished the game with 279 yards rushing and five touchdowns for the Panthers. It wasn’t all just offense for the 6-3 senior as he tallied 11 tackles and added an interception of his own on the defensive side of the ball.

For Rigerman, the game – and the season – couldn’t have started better for he and his team.

“Honestly, I thought that this would be a tough game. A close game,” he said. “For us to come out like that really just sparks in my heart that we’re a better team than what everybody says and what everybody predicted us to be this year.”

The game began with a chance for Iroquois to gain some early momentum after a snap went over the head of Rigerman while in punt formation. Rigerman scooped up the loose ball inside the five yard line and passed it to an open tight end Denton Tilly who was able to gain just enough yardage for the first down on the broken play. The Panthers took advantage of the lucky break to march the rest of the way down field for the opening score of the game: a one-yard touchdown run by Rigerman.

On the ensuing drive, the Chiefs would march nearly 70 yards down field, but an interception by quarterback Ethan Herbold – his first of three on the day – at the one-yard line gave the ball back to Pioneer.

The Panthers would then take the ball 88-yards down the field on a series that was capped off by a 47-yard Rigerman run down the sideline to make it 14-0. After another quick series for Iroquois, Rigerman would rush for his third score of the day on a six-yard scamper.

“It’s tough on young guys to really bounce back from something like that,” Iroquois head coach Robert Pitzonka said regarding the botched punt play and early interception. “It’s a great learning experience, and we have to be a team that takes something away from this game and not just beat ourselves up.”

With the game already becoming one-sided, a late interception by the senior Nick Rinker, who also happens to be the Panthers’ starting quarterback, set up Pioneer for another opportunity to score before half. With just four seconds left in the first half, Rinker found running back Tyler Ely downfield for a 28-yard touchdown to put the Panthers up 35-0 at the break.

Iroquois would finally break the shutout on the opening drive of the second half as Herbold found wide receiver Cody Collins for a 14-yard touchdown. A successful two-point conversion would make it a 35-8 game. Pioneer would add their final points of the game on the very next series as Rigerman took a toss to the outside for 40 yards and a score.

“In my eyes, I think we’re one of the best teams in Western New York right now,” Rigerman said. “I’m not going to get cocky, but it looks like we’ve shocked a lot of people.”

Panthers head coach James Duprey added that the team that’s now 2-0 to start the year is exactly the team he expected to see this season.

“We needed to start the year fast,” he said. “In previous years we’d start slow and come on at the end of the year, but that’s not what a championship team does. We needed to come out hot.”

Coming out hot to start the year is one thing but staying hot is completely different as the Panthers face a tough task next week with a home date against undefeated Maryvale. The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Iroquois either as the Chiefs play host to an also unbeaten Cheektowaga.

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