By Beau Wicker Sports Editor Oct 6, 2018
ROYAL CENTER — Pioneer put on a show in front of a big crowd for senior night festivities Friday night.
The crowd got to see one of the best football classes to ever go through contribute greatly to the Class A No. 1 Panthers destruction of the Culver Cavaliers. The Panthers would not be stopped on the night in a 72-0 blowout victory.
One of those seniors is grabbing headlines throughout state-wide publications this year. Jack Kiser lived up to his billing as one of the top players in the state with another sensational performance on Friday night.
“Senior night, we wanted to come out and make it memorable, get everybody involved, all the seniors, and I think we did that,” Kiser said. “It’s definitely going to be a night that we remember.”
Kiser will graduate as one of the state’s all-time leading rushers and scorers. But Pioneer fans also know he’s quite talented at throwing the football as well.
Pioneer’s first three plays from scrimmage were all passes and they all went for touchdowns. Kiser found Calahan Kindley for touchdown passes of 52 and 50 yards and also had a 30-yard touchdown pass to Danny Gregorich to give the Panthers a 22-0 lead in the first quarter.
Culver forced a fourth-and-5 from the Pioneer 40-yard line but the Panthers didn’t flinch. Kiser found Kindley for a 38-yard gain on the play and shortly after ran the ball into the end zone from 22 yards out to make it 30-0.
Kiser’s 20-yard touchdown run near the end of the first half made it a 36-0 game as he had a hand in all five of the Panthers’ first-half touchdowns.
Culver, meanwhile, put together a respectable first half. In fact the Cavaliers had seven first downs in the half and rushed for 88 yards on 32 carries. But they could not keep up with the big-play Panthers.
In the second half the Panthers continued to show just how good of an attack they have on offense. They unveiled a shotgun shovel pass that is popular with NFL offenses right now with teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chicago Bears. Kiser shoveled the ball to Ezra Lewellen who ran it in around right end and into the end zone from 29 yards out to start the scoring in the second half. Kiser later added a 12-yard TD run that Addai Lewellen capped with a 2-point run to make it a 50-0 game.
“We just put that in during Berry’s first year,” Kiser said of the shotgun shovel pass. “It’s actually considered a pass since it’s forward. If he drops it, it’s incomplete, so the risk level is not that much. And they just have so much speed, get them on the edge, that’s all we’re asking for.”
Following a Culver fumble that was recovered by Kiser, the Panthers dialed up Gregorich’s number and he took the ball 67 yards to the house, stiff-arming a defender into Fulton County in the process.
Gregorich later added a 5-yard touchdown run, his third score of the night that made it 64-0.
“He was carrying people on his back,” Kiser said of Gregorich. “You love to see that, that toughness and determination to get into the end zone. I feel like this whole senior class has that and that was on display right there.”
The Pioneer second unit also could not be stopped, as Derek Wireman showed off his speed with a 39-yard TD burst to cap the scoring.
Kiser was 7 of 8 passing for 229 yards and four touchdowns. He added 59 yards rushing and two touchdowns on five carries. The Notre Dame linebacker recruit had just one carry for 12 yards after halftime.
Kindley had three catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Gregorich had 105 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns on just four touches.
The Panthers (8-0, 6-0 HNAC) secured their fourth straight outright Hoosier North Athletic Conference title with the win.
Kiser was featured in the Indianapolis Star this week and a columnist from the Indianapolis Business Journal was at the game Friday night. But Kiser said the Panthers will not lose focus on the main prize: a repeat state championship.
“I think the program, all my teammates and myself, we’re keeping a level head and we understand we have a lot of business to take care of. Not really letting the media get to us. I feel like we’re in a good spot but we’ve got to get a lot better obviously,” he said.
Culver (2-6, 1-5) rushed for 119 yards on 53 carries, maybe not overly impressive but the Cavaliers did rush for over 100 yards against the first-team Pioneer defense, a feat in itself.
“That’s a credit to coach [Mike] Zehner. Every time we play one of his teams that’s exactly what they do,” Berry said. “They come out, they control the ball. They take time off the clock. When you watch them on film, that’s exactly what they do. They’re gaining 3.5, 4 yards per play, they’re happy with that. They know when they get it to fourth and short, we’re going to go for it. He’s an aggressive coach and that’s what we’ll always see from him.”
But the Panthers were able to score 10 touchdowns on 19 plays from scrimmage, showing once again they are the big favorite to repeat in Class A. They’re also hoping to have several more games at the Pit this year. The IHSAA tournament draw is at 6 p.m. Sunday on IHSAAtv.org.
Pioneer honored its fall sports senior athletes at halftime, including from the football team Kiser, Kindley, Gregorich, Gavin James, Daniel McKaig, Brock Smith, Conner Walker, Brady Smith and Dustin Sparks.
“It’s a great celebration for Pioneer athletics and Pioneer as a whole,” Berry said. “We had that celebration for the softball team before the game, celebrating all those seniors, probably almost half of the senior class at halftime. Then we get to celebrate the game after the win. What a great way to end their regular-season home games. They came out and performed.”