Gridiron grit: Pioneers' success hinges on battle in the trenches

2014 Record: 8-3

Returning Starters: 11

Biggest Question Mark: Coach John Manion -- the "dean of coaches" in the Lancaster-Lebanon League -- initially marked depth as an issue, but after a scrimmage against Manheim Township Manion sounded much more confident. The question mark will most likely be lack of experience, especially on the offensive line, as L-S currently has 28 sophomores on the team. Coach Manion is confident, but this is still a question mark through the first couple of games as these players become acquainted with varsity high school football.

Most Important Game: The season opener at Hempfield will present the Pioneers with their biggest challenge. Not only is it the first game, but it was also one of the most tightly contested matches of 2014 and is on the road. With many factors going against the Pioneers, the season opener will be key indicator of future success or failure.

Keys to Success: Bear Shank leads the offense and defense, essentially playing quarterback on both sides, so obviously there is a lot of pressure on him to lead this team to success. But battles also must be won in the trenches. Defensive tackles Isaiah Carr and Pete Tollinger will be anchoring the defense up front while offensive lineman Merek Hilliker will look to lead an offensive line behind which running backs Chad Gaudino and Shane Lawler will run. The defense is anchored on the back end by defensive backs Chase Pirozzi and George Grau, both of whom will need to provide time for defensive end Darren Metz to sack the QB. With so many seniors on defense, the Pioneers will need to keep the opposing teams score low and get the ball into the hands of Bear Shank.

Prediction: 7-3 is probably a realistic prediction for this team. L-S is only returning about half of its starters, a problem that could lead to poor play in the beginning of the season due only to a lack of experience. But this team does still have great leadership in Coach Manion, and arguably the best quarterback in the Lancaster-Lebanon league, so don't read too much into the lack of experience. With two great leaders at the helm, hopefully my prediction is low and L-S has a great season.


--Kevin Reed, LSNews.org Football Reporter

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