FOOTBALL: Sixth victory, automatic playoff berth eludes Richard

By Chris Zadorozny

Playoff hopes were high for the Gabriel Richard Pioneers heading into their final home game against the Melvindale Academy of Business and Technology on Friday night.

Those hopes are now dwindled down to rankings.

The Pioneers fell to the Gators 32-6 on a disappointing night.

The Pioneers had a great first drive in the first quarter, scoring on a touchdown near the end of the first quarter, but that’s all the points they would muster.

The way the game ended wasn’t the way it started at all.

The Pioneer defense looked strong, while their offense looked even better. The Gators didn’t let the first two drives of the game decide their mentality the rest of the way.

A dominant rest of the first half for the Gators transferred into the second half, as they held the Pioneers to no points, and no first downs the entire second half.

It was a disappointing end to the regular season for Coach Thomas Michalsen and his Pioneers, but they aren’t giving up on postseason hopes just yet.

“I don’t know if we’ll have enough points to get in, we’re on the bubble, but that (loss) didn’t help us,” said Michalsen.

Although their record now stands at 5-4, they are going to need a lot of help to get in after a 28-point loss.

Senior Joe Lavine led the way defensively throughout the game for the Pioneers, but it was his start that looked to spark the Pioneers for their one and only touchdown of the game. Two tackles for a combined loss of 15 yards started the game for the Pioneers.

Then, a combination of running plays from junior Tyler Blaszczak, senior Devin Dickow, and sophomore Tyler Riney, along with sophomore quarterback Jacob Lipetzky led the Pioneers on a 13-play, 89-yard drive. It lasted over six minutes and resulted in a Blaszczak 4-yard touchdown run up the gut to give the Pioneers their one and only score, and lead of the night. A failed 2-point conversion gave Gabriel Richard the six points it finished with.

The Gators responded well to the score, especially after their three and out drive to start game. Senior Worthy Kyran led his Gators, completing two of three passes for 82 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Vanpelt Deonte to tie the game. A block by Riney on the extra point could have given the Pioneers some momentum, despite having the game tied, but it didn’t.

The Pioneers had a quick three and out to end to start the second quarter, and Kyran once again led his team down the field.

Starting at their own 20-yard line, the Gators went a full 80 yards, finishing the drive with a two-yard touchdown run by senior Thomas Armond. The two-point conversion was no good, so the Pioneers were still within striking distance – they even had the chance to take the lead if they scored.

But, they just couldn’t find their rhythm. It was a quick three and out for the Pioneers, but the Gator offense couldn’t tack on a score the rest of the first half. Gabriel Richard was in this game at the half, only down 12-6, and they had to find a way to score. They even started the second half with the ball, but that’s when things started to go wrong.

Melvindale ABT really stood tall on defense in the second half. The Pioneers first drive of the second half resulted in just four yards on a three and out. Then, Kyran and his offense went to work.

Despite nine plays and 61 yards, and even going for it on 4th and 2 on the Pioneer 22-yard line, the Gators couldn’t get that first down. A big tackle by Pioneer senior John Sawicki stopped Gator senior running back Dardin Kevin on fourth down, turning the ball over.

Was the momentum in the Pioneers favor for this drive? Not even in the slightest. The first run resulted in no yards, and then Riney, who had a magnificent PAT block in the first half, fumbled the ball on his own 20-yard line.

Melvindale ABT capitalized and scored on a 9-yard touchdown run by Kevin. A 20-6 score after a failed 2-point conversion kept the Pioneers in the game, but it wasn’t in the cards. Another three and out resulted in the ball at midfield for the Gators and wore down the already tired Pioneer defense.

Kyran found the end zone early in the fourth quarter with a 1-yard QB sneak to seal the game, going up 26-6 with 7:58 left in the game.

Adding salt in the wounds, a quick three and out for the Pioneers resulted in another Gators touchdown just less than two minutes later. A 24-yard run by Kevin with 6:07 to go stung the Pioneers.

Leading the way for the Pioneers on offense, Blaszczak finished with 55 yards on nine carries, and a touchdown. On the defensive side, Lavine contributed at least 14 tackles, while fellow senior John Sawicki had five, and sophomore Luke Gierman had nine.

For the Gators, Kyran was 4/9 with 99 yards, along with 10 carries for 49 yards and one touchdown. Kevin also had a monster game for the Gators, as he had 16 carries for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Spiegel Grayson had eight tackles for the Gators on defense.

It’s a tough loss for the Pioneers who haven’t made the playoffs in 10 years.

“Execution, mental errors, a couple penalties put us at third and long and second and long,” Michalsen mentioned on what didn’t go right for the Pioneers. “Backs fell down lost their footing a couple of times running the ball. Same story it’s been the last few weeks. We’re a young team.”

It was a big win for the Gators, who now finish the season over .500. “We’ve been through a lot of adverse situations this year. My guys hung in there, we’ve lost a lot close games, some that we shouldn’t have lost,” said Gators Coach Wayne Poole. “They’re a resilient group of kids. It’s a great team effort.”

Now the Pioneers must wait and see if they’ll make the playoffs. If they do, the celebration won’t be as big as they were hoping for on Friday night, but it will still mean a lot to this young team.

To read the original post that appeared in The News-Herald on October 26, 2013, go to www.miprepzone.com/thenewsherald

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