The Dunkirk Marauders (0-3, 0-3) continued to struggle on offense Friday night as key mistakes cost the home team in a 35-6 loss to the Pioneer Panthers (2-0, 2-1) in Class B South high school football action.
"It's the same problems we had in the first two games," Dunkirk coach Tim Majka said following his team's home opener. "We stall ourselves on offense, whether it is with a fumble or a mistake and we continue to have problems with our center-quarterback exchange."
On the very first play from scrimmage for the Marauders, an attempted screen pass was nearly intercepted at the line of scrimmage and almost cost the home team six points. However, the ball fell incomplete, but the miscues led to a three-and-out series for Dunkirk which allowed Pioneer to set up shop at its own 45 yard line.
OBSERVER?Photo by Justin?Goetz
Dunkirk’s Gage Austin, right, tackles Pioneer’s Tyler Mummery, left, during Friday’s Class B?South high school football game.
It was obvious Pioneer quarterback, Bryce Little wanted to get his 6-foot-5-inch tight end Justin Bliss involved early and often as he was targeted twice in the first three plays.
Faced with 4th-and-7, Little aired it out to Bliss one more time, this time connecting for a 43-yard touchdown with 8:09 to go in the first quarter.
Pioneer took over at Dunkirk's 35 yard line, but was unable to find the same type of success on offense as it coughed up the ball and Dunkirk's Lucas Lugen recovered.
Dunkirk was able to find some momentum moving the ball as it picked up a couple of first downs, but it was a turnover that would lead to points for the Panthers which stalled the Marauders early in the second quarter.
Following a fumble recovery by Pioneer's Andrew Hyman, the Panthers drove 58 yards to score the game's second touchdown as Kris Riordan took the handoff from 5 yards out to reach paydirt, and with another successful extra-point, the Panthers took a 14-0 lead with 5:07 left before the half.
"We work all week, rep after rep after rep with our players," Majka said. "We have our running backs go through the gauntlet drill to have them practice holding on to the ball with contact."
Ball security became an issue again on the following play, this time in a different phase of the game.
On the kickoff, Pioneer popped the ball up short and high and was able to recover the ball as Dunkirk failed to hold onto it.
A heavy dose of Riordan led to the Panthers' third score of the game as he reaped the benefits of his labor with an 8-yard score.
"Pioneer moved the ball on our defense, there is no question about that," Majka said. "But even when the score was 21-0, I didn't feel like we were out of it, because I knew the difference in the game was just a couple of mistakes we made."
Dunkirk got the ball back with 3:28 left in the first half and had one last attempt to find some positives going into the break.
The most explosive play from the Marauders' offense came on a 47-yard pass from Josh Goodwin to Rashad Graham that moved Dunkirk deep into Pioneer territory.
With time dwindling down in the half, the Marauders were faced with a goal-to-go situation, before Dunkirk coughed up the ball again, thwarting its scoring opportunity.
On Pioneer's opening drive of the third quarter, it took 8:29 off the clock, but it eventually turned the ball over on downs deep in Dunkirk's end of the field. However, a stagnant offensive performance, coupled with a botched punt by the home team allowed Pioneer to get the ball right back at Dunkirk's 3-yard line.
From there, Tyler Mummery found the end zone to give the Panthers a 28-0 advantage.
"With some guys getting nicked up we really had to go deep into our roster," Majka said. "Sometimes we went too deep into our roster and a lot of the guys out there didn't have very many reps."
Mummery crossed the goal line once again in the fourth quarter to give Pioneer the 35-0 lead. This time the scoring play came from 44 yards out.
"To everyone's credit, no one gave up," Majka said. "With all the substituting and mistakes in all three of our games, everyone has given 100 percent effort. Sometimes the other team is just more talented. Pioneer has always been big and strong up front."
The one bright spot for Dunkirk came late in the fourth quarter when Nick Barlette punched the ball into the end zone for the Marauders' only scoring play of the game.
"We've been trying to find our go-to guy," Majka said. "Barlette was injured for our first game and we knew Nick Bomasuto ran the ball hard. We wanted them to be our thunder and lightning combo. We knew we were going to have some growing pains at quarterback, so we are expecting our two senior running backs to carry the load until Goodwin is comfortable."
Barlette finished the game with 73 rushing yards on 11 carries, while Goodwin was 4-6 through the air with 75 yards.
Leading the Dunkirk defense was Lugen with 11 tackles to go along with his fumble recovery while Isaiah Rivera had 10 tackles and Nick Jones had eight.
The Marauders will be back in action next Friday night as they play host to Olean.