Pioneers ready for Thursday showdown

Topher Scheeler, Assistant Sports Editor

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The No. 16 Pioneers will put their undefeated record on the line Thursday night under the lights of Ralph E. Davis Pioneers Stadium in a non-conference game against the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Blugolds. Both teams enter the tilt well-rested, having had eleven days between games.


Different feelings for the bye weeks

The Pioneers have won their first two games in the 2012 campaign by an average of 30 points, defeating Buena Vista University and University of Dubuque, using a high-powered passing offense to put the Pioneers ahead for good well before the fourth quarter.

UW-Eau Claire has lost two gritty contests against St. Thomas (Minn.) and Saint John’s (Minn.), both by late field goals. The Blugolds allowed their opponents to come back after letting up second-half leads in both games. Despite the 0-2 record, Pioneer head coach Mike Emendorfer sees the Blugolds as a difficult challenge.

“This game will allow us to prepare for conference play against a very good football team,” Emendorfer said. “They’re hungry for a victory; our concern is making sure we keep our focus against a good team.”


Offensive firepower on both sides

Blugold running back Joel Sweeney has averaged 143 yards rushing per game this season, a statistic that Blugold head coach Todd Glaser attributes to his team’s commitment to blocking.

“It all starts with our offensive line playing well, and our wide receivers and tight ends have been blocking well. Our backs have been hitting holes hard, which needs to continue,” Glaser said.

Emendorfer recognizes the tough task that Sweeney represents for his Pioneers. “We can’t allow him to get going downhill. He’s a big guy, around 250 pounds, and if he gets to our safety level, he’s a bear to bring down,” Emendorfer said.

The Pioneers possess play makers of their own, contributing to the team’s 54 points per game.

“They do a great job spreading the ball around. You have to limit their big plays because they control the ball well and use the short passing game well. If you come up to stop the short game, they’ll beat you deep,” Glaser said.


Non-Conference – No difference 

In 2011, the WIAC instituted a rule that forced conference teams to drop one out-of-conference game and play a conference opponent in their early schedule. Even though the game will not affect conference records, both coaches plan not to hold anything back.

“You can’t adjust your game plan. You have to go in with everything or else you’re going to be beat badly,” Glaser said.

Emendorfer echoed similar feelings. “You have to play to win the game. We will play our best football and we treat this game as a very important game.”



This game will come down to which team allows less big plays. Sweeney has the ability to score every time he touches the ball, and Pioneers starting quarterback John Kelly is coming off a game in which he scored five total touchdowns.

Sweeney will have a game, most likely over 100 yards on the ground, but the Pioneer defense will make key stops and force a turnover, while Kelly will take advantage of an average Blugolds secondary.

Pioneers 42 – Blugolds 21

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