Saturday, July 21, 2018
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20170915 PioneervsLaredoIf one player goes down, others must rise to the occasion, and the Pioneer Diamondbacks did just that to win their District 31-5A opener 34-12 against the Cigarroa Toros Friday night at Richard Thompson Stadium.


Third-year starter Jacob Rosales, the reigning 31-5A First Team All-District quarterback, came out of the gate hot, scoring the team’s two first touchdowns on runs of two and four yards. Up 14-0 with 2:14 remaining in the first quarter, Rosales exited the game with a hamstring injury.


Senior quarterback Michael Morales stepped up to fill in for the injured Rosales, and the Pioneer offense didn’t miss a beat. After touchdowns on the Diamondbacks opening two drives of the game, Morales kept the streak going with first half touchdowns to the receiving pair of senior William Proctor and junior Diego Benavides to go into the locker room up 28-6.


Head Coach Jason Wheeler said he was impressed with Morales keeping Pioneer moving in his first taste of varsity action.


“He’s a good operator, the kids love him and he works hard,” Wheeler said. “I don’t think the game was too big for him; he did some good things in there and ran the offense. He moved the ball and did a good job. This was his first varsity game and he played almost the whole game. I was proud of that and I thought our kids handled adversity.”


Morales said he and Rosales have built confidence and trust in each other through practice, which paid off Friday night.


“I think it just shows that we trust each other and it doesn’t matter who’s back there, we’ll all execute and do what needs to be done,” Morales said. “I’ve been practicing, I knew what to do. Jake has been there the entire time, motivating me and allowing me to do what I do.”


In the second half, it was the Pioneer defense and ground game that took over to shut down the Toros and control the tempo. After Cigarroa’s first score, senior safety Tyler Bulthuis busted through the Toros protection to block the extra point attempt, which was scooped up and nearly returned to the house by junior defensive end Alonso Ibarra. Ibarra and fellow defensive lineman Kevin Valdez kept constant pressure on Cigarroa’s quarterback Alfredo Sepulveda all night.


The running back duo of senior Logan Harris and junior Michael Benavidez found their groove after the break by keeping the chains moving and the Pioneer defense off the field. However, when the Diamondback defense was on the field, Bulthuis was most likely forcing a turnover, as he finished the game with three interceptions and the blocked kick. He even threw for a first down on a fourth down fake punt attempt.


“For me, the coaches put us in a great situation,” Bulthuis said. “Defensive line and linebackers got a great pass rush and I didn’t really have to do much, just made some plays.”


Morales finished the game with three touchdowns on the night—two to Benavides and one to Proctor. With the victory, Pioneer moves to 1-0 in District 31-5A and 2-1 overall.


“Overall, it was a good team win; we still made some mistakes but we wanted to play four quarters of football and I thought we did that,” Wheeler said.


Next up for the Diamondbacks is a road game Sept. 29 against the team they split the district crown with last year, the Laredo Nixon Mustangs.