NORTHFIELD >> McCann Tech did everything it could to counter the dominance of Pioneer's linemen during Saturday's tilt in Northfield — unfortunately for the Hornets, none of it worked.
McCann hit the road Saturday afternoon and returned home with a 21-6 defeat. They also came back with worrisome baggage that will last longer than the sting of the loss as starting quarterback Mike Ferrara left the game with an ankle injury.
Pioneer dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, gouging their way to 246 rushing yards while giving up only 73. When Pioneer needed to score, they did.
"They absolutely won that, both sides," McCann coach Bob LeClair said. "Their offensive and defensive lines dominated us up there."
Yet somehow, McCann (1-2) was never really in or out of the game.
Pioneer aided the effort by coughing the ball up three times on offense — one of their few negatives on the day — but the Hornets could only capitalize on one of the turnovers. Then, in two different instances, the Hornets had their shred of momentum ripped away from them with injuries.
With Pioneer up 7-0 after an opening-drive score by Pioneer quarterback Alex Tyson, McCann's defense produced a turnover when Corbin Richardson popped the ball out of Tyson's arms and Alex Kimok fell on the loose ball. McCann drove to Pioneer's 23-yard line, but turned it over on downs.
Four plays later, McCann got the ball back again when Dakota Bolte fell on a fumble. McCann began driving when Ferrara scrambled for 15 yards, but on the very next play Ferrara was sacked by Pioneer and left the game injured. He did not return, and Andrew Koch had to step in.
McCann punted away on the possession, and 35 seconds before the half, Josh Baker took a two-yard carry to the house to put the Panthers up 14-0.
Pioneer coach Paul Worth is no stranger to LeClair and his McCann team. Formerly the Essex Tech coach, Worth played McCann in the last two vocational super bowls, and Worth was able to scout both of McCann's games this year. Mix in the familiarity with Ferrara's injury, and Pioneer had McCann in a good place.
"Well yeah, it really limited their playbook and that fit into our aggressive defense, but we had them scouted pretty well," Worth said. "I saw them play the last two years in the super bowl against my school, so I had a pretty good feel for what they do offensively."
Still, for all of Pioneer's dominance up front to control the first half, McCann was suddenly back in it before fading out again.
After a three-and-out to open the second half, McCann once again recovered a Pioneer fumble — this time Mason Field got on it — and this turnover finally turned into points.
Richardson, a senior captain, lived up to his role on the team by dragging McCann down the field. In am 11-play drive, Richardson took seven carries for 46 yards and capped it with a six-yard dash to make it 14-6 with 2:37 left in the third. He finished with 12 carries for 55 yards.
That was the high-water mark. Pioneer turned the ball over on downs at the McCann 32 in the fourth quarter, but Richardson went down on the next play and Koch threw an interception two plays after that. Pioneer turned the pick into its final score, as Bryce Dobosz (22 carries, 169 yards) found pay dirt.
LeClair acknowledged the good that showed in flashes in the game, but the overarching theme was apparent.
"We saw something there, saw some spark [with the touchdown]," LeClair said. "They put 11 on 11 out there, and their 11 were better than our 11 each time out there. For only having so few guys, they are a tough bunch over there."
The Hornets have to lick their wounds from this game quickly now, as the team gets prepared to play Mount Greylock next week.
P — Alex Tyson 1 run (Wyatt Keith kick), 6:45
P — Josh Baker 2 run (Keith kick), 0:35
MT — Corbin Richardson 6 run (Cody Jordan kick failed), 2:37
P — Bryce Dobosz 1 run (Keith kick), 7:06
RUSHING — McCann Tech: Corbin Richardson 12-55-1, Dakota Bolte 13-10, Mason Field 2-(minus 1), Mike Ferrara 3-12, Keandre Gardner 1-(minus 3). Pioneer: Bryce Dobosz 22-169-1, Josh Baker 13-84-1, Alex Tyson 2-(minus 7)-1
PASSING — McCann Tech: Ferrara 3-5-14-0-0, Andrew Koch 0-1-0-0-1. Pioneer: Tyson 7-12-123-0-0.