The Pioneer football team finished this year with one of the most successful seasons in school history. There were a lot of “firsts” this year, and the program as a whole is very excited to build off of this season.
The Pioneers finished with a record of 10-2 (5-0 OCC), losing in the regional semi-finals of the OHSAA Division I State Tournament against Pickerington Central on Nov. 15. This was the second time in school history that the team has made it this far in the playoffs.
“This season was very successful,” senior linebacker Zach Hill said. “It was a really special thing for our seniors to be a part of.”
The teams 36-17 win against Pickerington North in the first round of the playoffs marked Head Coach Zebb Schroeder's first playoff win with the program. It also avenged the team’s only regular season loss.
“We’re proud of it and it’s a natural step up the ladder for us as a program,” Schroeder said. “But we have to keep climbing and building off of the leadership and mindset of this year's team.”
Although the team has shared OCC titles in the past, this year was the first outright OCC championship in school history. Olentangy Liberty finished second in the OCC with a record of 5-1.
“Hopefully our young guys watched how our seniors handled their business,” Schroeder said. “If so, then we have the ability to keep climbing up from this point.”
Many individual awards were won on the team. These include Hill winning All-District Defensive Player of the Year and cornerback senior Reece Duhnam winning first team All-District, along with many others.
The Pioneers also beat both inner district rivals, Olentangy and Liberty, for the first time in school history. This was a big step for the team, which accomplished one of the goals it set going into the season.
“It felt really good to win those games,” senior tackle Najib Talukder said. “Those games mean just a little bit more and it is really nice to have bragging rights over the local teams.”
The program is looking to build on this season in years to come. This year’s seniors feel that they have laid the groundwork for much success in the future.
Junior Linebacker Colin Mcnay said, “really looking forward to watching how our team will grow, especially from learning so much from the success of last year.”
The team has a tradition of placing check marks on a board in the weightroom when it accomplishes a goal. These goals include ‘Beat Tangy’, ‘Beat Powell’, ‘1-0’, ‘OCC Champs’ and ‘Get to November’. This was the first year that the team got to check every goal.
“It means a lot to set the standard for classes to come,” Hill said. “Hopefully this season will push them to be even better and set new goals.”
With a historic season in the books, the seniors can rest easy knowing they did what they could. Now, there is an opportunity in place for the next classes of football players to make history again.