In a season full of ups and downs, the Mercer/Butternut football team found good wins and great players.
The Pioneers finished the season fifth in the Lakeland-8 North conference, going 2-7 overall and 2-4 in the conference.
The Pioneers’ first win of the season came Sept. 7 against Washburn/Bayfield in thrilling fashion.
At halftime, the Pioneers led 20-8 and looked to keep that play going in the second half. In the third quarter, Washburn/Bayfield scored 16 unanswered points to take a 24-20 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Pioneers put their foot down and scored the go-ahead touchdown by Jacob Schmidt to put them up 26-24. The defense forced a punt and eventually, the Pioneers ran the clock down for the 26-24 win.
The other Pioneer victory came Oct. 4 at Winter/Birchwood, winning by a score of 38-22.
The running game proved potent in this contest. Kobe Hiller and Schmidt combined for 208 yards and four touchdowns.
“Like any competition, the wins are a highlight whether we are 2-7 or 9-0,” coach Matt Schoeneman said. “Our wins against Winter and Washburn and our first halves in Siren and Northwoods.”
These two were the focal points of the offense. Hiller and Schmidt led the way for many Pioneer games, executing the offense with quarterback Baylie Huybrecht.
Both Hiller and Schmidt were the leading rushers.
“The strength of our team was the offensive and defensive lines,” Schoeneman said. “They were able to open holes for our backs. Even against teams that attempted to stop the run, we were able to be successful running the ball.”
At receiver, Joe Laudolff caught most of the passes, including a touchdown against Winter/Birchwood.
Defensively, both Ryan Losh and Devin Losh caused many disruptions in the backfield and pressure on the quarterback. Ryan Losh was the Pioneers’ leading tackler.
“Devin and Ryan are special student athletes. They have committed themselves to the weight room,” Schoeneman said. “They are a throwback to old time football players that want to be physical and hit.”
In addition to those two, running back Schmidt recorded many tackles too, including 14 against Winter/Birchwood. But it was a total team effort on defense.
“Our growth from last season on the defensive side of the ball is a team highlight,” Schoeneman said. “We got after it, tackled bettered, and were physical.”
The record may not have been what they wanted, but coach Schoeneman walks away proud of his kids.
“I am proud of a core group of student athletes that finished the season,” he said. “They were up against the odds, teams that had depth on both sides of the ball. We finished the season.”
Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]