Pioneers Run Wild, Win Section Opener

On Friday, the football team was back in action after shellacking arch-rivals Solanco last week. Despite not being a very warm night, both teams felt the burden of a shortened preseason as many players went down with cramps and other minor injuries throughout the game. 

QB Sean McTaggart Runs Ball (Patrick Blain LNP)
  QB Sean McTaggart Runs Ball In Game vs Lebanon (Patrick Blain LNP)

The Lebanon Cedars opened the scoring at Alumni Stadium three minutes into the game when Matthew Brown scored an 8-yard touchdown run after a big catch by Kaden Harbaugh on the Cedars' first offensive play. The Pioneers quickly responded by driving down the field on a 12-play drive that featured only running plays. Alex Knapp punched the ball into the end zone to level the score at 7.

The Pioneer running game continued to run wild in the second quarter with Alex Knapp, Sean McTaggart, and Owen Fikkert all grabbing rushing TDs in the quarter. L-S ran for 202 yards in the first half and went into halftime leading by two touchdowns. Alex Knapp averaged almost 9 yards per run in the first half.

The turning point in the game was during the second quarter when Lebanon WR Alex Rufe fumbled the ball deep in his own territory after being stripped by OLB Conner Nolt. Austin Stoltzfus recovered the fumble. Although he went onto make some noise in the second half, the Pioneer secondary did an outstanding job keeping Rufe in check, who led the L-L League in receptions last season. However, this did open up other Cedar receivers such as Kaden Harbaugh and Michael Johnson.

Both offenses cooled down in the second half, with both sides able to get down the field but unable to put points on the board. The only scoring in the 3rd quarter came on an 18-yard reception by Austin Stoltzfus after a drive featuring long runs by Sean McTaggart and a long pass to TE Beau Heyser.

Brady Cole intercepted an Isaiah Rodriguez pass in the middle of the 4th quarter, killing a last-ditch effort to get back into the game by the Cedars. The Pioneers cashed in on the turnover with Owen Fikkert running for his 2nd touchdown of the game, and 3rd of the young season. After a touchdown run in the dying seconds of the game by Lebanon, the final score was 42-20 in favor of the Pioneers.

THREE STARS:

QB Sean McTaggart: Expect Sean to be a frequent flyer on this list throughout the season. Tonight, he went 13-20 with 144 yards and a TD in the air, and more impressively 108 yards and another TD on 19 carries. If Sean can continue throwing and running the ball at this pace, you can expect another strong season from the Pioneers.

The Pioneer Offensive Line: The big boys up front opened up a lot of holes for McTaggart, Knapp, Fikkert, and others to run through throughout the night. Zac Shelley, Jake Scranton, Ashton Spahr, Neil Eckman, and Nick del Grande deserve a lot of credit for the success of the Pioneer offense tonight.

WR Michael Johnson: Despite his team's loss, Johnson had an incredible night. He totaled 85 yards on 8 catches and added a touchdown as well. Johnson, along with other Cedar receivers helped fill the gap that was left by a rocky night from star receiver Alex Rufe.

Honorable Mentions: RB Alex Knapp, TE Beau Heyser, OLB Conner Nolt, Lebanon QB Isaiah Rodriguez.

SCORING SUMMARY:

1st Quarter:
(LEB) Matthew Brown 8 yard rush. LS 0 - LEB 7
(LS) Alex Knapp 2 yard rush. LS 7 - LEB 7
2nd Quarter:
(LS) Alex Knapp 4 yard rush. LS 14 - LEB 7
(LEB) Michael Johnson 50 yard reception. LS 14 - LEB 14
(LS) Owen Fikkert 3 yard rush. LS 21 - LEB 14
(LS) Sean McTaggart 7 yard rush. LS 28 - LEB 14
3rd Quarter:
(LS) Austin Stoltzfus 18 yard reception. LS 35 - LEB 14
4th Quarter:
(LS) Owen Fikkert 8 yard rush. LS 42 - LEB 14
(LEB) Pedro DeArce 7 yard rush (Missed PAT). LS 42 - LEB 20

STAT LEADERS: (All Stats Courtesy Lebanon Daily News & Andy Mease)

Passing:
(LS) Sean McTaggart: 13-20, 108 yards, 1 TD
(LEB) Isaiah Rodriguez: 23-39, 263 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
(LS) Sean McTaggart: 108 yards, 5.68 yards per rush, 1 TD
(LEB) Pedro DeArce: 17 yards, 2.83 yards per rush, 1 TD
Receiving:
(LS) Beau Heyser: 4 receptions, 47 yards
(LEB) Michael Johnson: 7 receptions, 87 yards, 1 TD

The Pioneers will return to action next Friday for the home opener against the Lancaster Catholic Crusaders, who should give the reigning district champions a challenge. The Cedars head back on the road to Ephrata's War Memorial Stadium to face off with the Mountaineers.
By Logan Moyer, LS News reporter

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