With time expiring at the end of the first half against Walsh, freshman quarterback Josh McLaughlin tried to get the ball in the endzone on fourth-and-inches at the goal line. He dove forward behind the offensive line, but in a close call, officials ruled him short of the goal line, denying the Pioneers a critical score that would have cut into a 14-3 deficit.
For the Pioneers, it was the closest they would come to getting back into the game. Walsh pulled away in the third quarter with two key touchdown drives to defeat the Pioneers, 35-10, on Saturday night in the 17th meeting between the rivals.
Head Coach Eric Hehman said his team showed signs of improvement from last week’s loss to St. Xavier, but failed to execute in key moments.
“Really, it was that lack of execution, whether it be on the deep coverage or a penalty in a crucial situation, that kind of destroyed our momentum,” Hehman said.
Although the Pioneers were only penalized six times for 49 yards, several holding penalties stalled promising drives in the first half.
“We’re just not old enough, we’re just not mature enough, we’re just not good enough right now to do those types of things,” Hehman said.
In the second quarter, the Pioneers took a 3-0 lead with a career-long 47-yard field goal from senior kicker Nick Allison. The score was set up by a fumble recovery by junior linebacker Glen Whirley.
The field goal would be the last time the Pioneers put points on the board until the fourth quarter, when the game had already been decided.
[pullquote]It sucks,” Vick said. “I don’t get a chance ever again. It’s just hard to swallow, I guess.”[/pullquote]
After a slow start, Walsh’s offense quickly picked up the pace in response to the field goal. Tailback Justin Keith punched in the first of his two rushing touchdowns from 11 yards out in the second quarter on his way to a 179-yard game, giving Walsh a 7-3 lead.
Throughout the rest of the game, the Cavaliers didn’t look back.
After stuffing the Pioneers at the goal line at the end of the first half to preserve a 14-3 lead going into halftime, Walsh aired it out in the third quarter. A deep strike from quarterback Jim Shiplett to wide receiver Anthony Schrock set up a touchdown run by tailback Steve Smith.
Minutes later, Shiplett found wide receiver Robert Wigfall for a 31-yard touchdown pass, which made the score 28-3 and effectively put the Pioneers away with for good.
The Pioneers struggled to move the ball against Walsh’s defense. The offense did have some success on the ground, with backup quarterback McLaughlin scrambling for a team-best 60 yards. However, the Pioneers’ passing game was virtually non-existent, generating only 62 yards on the game.
McLaughlin started for the first time in his college career, replacing starter Will Szpor, who went down with a concussion in last week’s game against St. Xavier. Although this was his first Walsh game, McLaughlin said he quickly found out how much this game means to the team.
In spite of the loss, however, he kept an eye toward the future.
“I feel like we overcame a lot of things,” McLaughlin said. “I don’t think we ever quit, and I think we’re moving forward.”
For seniors on the team, such as senior linebacker Matt Vick, the loss to Walsh represents the last time they’ll play their rivals.
“It sucks,” Vick said. “I don’t get a chance ever again. It’s just hard to swallow, I guess.”
Looking forward, however, Vick said he hopes the Pioneers can rebound from this game and finish strong.
“Our offense did get better,” he said. “So, we keep that going, and the defense picks it up some, there isn’t a reason we can’t win out.”
The loss drops the Pioneers to 3-4 on the year. They play on the road the next two weeks before finishing up the season with two home games.