Proof came early for the Pioneer football team.
Visiting Monroe took its opening drive right down the field and landed in the end zone to take a 7-0 lead. How the Pioneers would respond would go a long way in proving if purple stood for pride – or not.
Pioneer would respond with two touchdowns, and after Monroe tied the game at 14-14 they responded again – with three unanswered touchdowns on their way to a 35-21 win to improve to 2-2 on the season.
Purple equals pride and the bell ringing in the home corner of the end zone after the game could be heard all over the SEC Red Division.
Pioneer hosts Bedford at 1 p.m. on Saturday in another big league showdown.
But first the Pioneers deserve to celebrate Friday’s win which started in a 7-0 hole after the Trojans’ impressive first drive of the night.
Senior quarterback Nate Yuhas began his big night on the next drive with an 11-yard TD pass to number 11 Lael Onifade. Eleven yards to No. 11 and a score.
The first Pioneer score was set up by a perfect punt off the foot of Yuhas, who pinned the Trojans at their 1-foot line. The defense almost pulled off a safety on a couple of plays but at least forced Monroe to a three-and-out and a punt from their own end zone.
That set up Pioneer inside the Trojans’ half of the field and allowed the hosts to even the game with 8:48 to play in the opening quarter.
Monroe began another drive that looked like it would end in more points for the visitors. But Nathan Chadwick made what one might consider the turning point play of the game. The junior linebacker intercepted a Monroe pass around the 15-yard line and returned it all the way to the Trojans’ 39-yard line. So, instead of points for Monroe, it was game on for Pioneer.
Yuhas tossed a five-yard pass to number 5 Jordan Hall for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead with 1:05 left in the first half. Five yards to No. 5 and a score.
The Trojans turned their opening drive of the second half into seven points on a 61-yard run by Jalen Johnson to tie the game at 14-14 with 9:49 left in the third quarter.
Pioneer would respond again. And again. And again.
The first “again” came on a 56-yard TD pass from Yuhas to Onifade, who made a great cutback move after the catch along the sideline and raced to the end zone for the score. The Pioneers led 21-14 with 8:20 left in the third quarter.
With 44 seconds left in the third quarter, Yuhas fired a perfect strike along the sidelines to Onifade – who else – who took it 44 yards for another Pioneer score and a 28-14 lead.
Yuhas then used his legs to run and dive into the end zone on a seven-yard run with 1:30 left in the game to push the lead to 35-14.
Monroe scored a TD for the final score with 2 seconds left in the game.