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Football team strengthened through adversity

By Coach Daniel McDonald

The 2020 football season will go down in Providence history for a multitude of reasons.  Overshadowed by the COVID pandemic, our players found themselves dealing with adversity and less than ideal conditions before our season began. Coach McDonald was hired in March and able to have one introductory meeting with 17 returning players, and then the nation was quarantined. Unable to meet in person, this offseason will always be remembered as the Google Meet offseason. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from April until June, Coach McDonald and the rest of the staff met with the team to establish our culture, check in with players, and install our offensive and defensive systems. It was not ideal, but we made it work.

Unfortunately, we were not able to conduct any of our traditional preseason events to prepare ourselves for the season, such as team camp, 7 on 7, and interscholastic practices, nor were we able to conduct any summer team-building activities or service projects.  Our very first in-person meeting was on July 6, and due to COVID restrictions, we were unable to get much done; however, our players gave relentless effort throughout our preseason workouts, and we made it work as best we could.

Going into our first game against Floyd Central and our second game against Silver Creek, we still didn’t really know ourselves very well. The odds were already stacked against us, as our 2A roster did not match up very well with Floyd Central’s 5A depth, nor Silver Creek’s 4A depth.  Our team did not let our small size, in both stature and numbers, deter us from our mission of giving relentless effort, playing with character, and placing the team before ourselves. We continued to get better each week and come into our own offensively. 

After a fluke loss to Clarksville, our team hit its turning point in an underdog win against Charlestown. Senior quarterback Jaxon Murphy had his best passing game, throwing for 135 yards and a touchdown, and adding another 64 yards on the ground. Senior Jeremy Gettelfinger was solid in the running game, and freshman Brian Wall scored his first varsity touchdown. Defensively, senior Kole Krininger and sophomore Grayson Abel negated the Pirates’ run game, as they were able to contain the Pirates nationally ranked, five-star offensive tackle, in one of the gutsiest performances demonstrated by high school football players.  Junior Roy Shrout and Gettelfinger each had an interception, and senior Nathan Striby added a huge field goal to put the game away in the fourth quarter. 

The Pioneers next traveled across the river to battle the No. 3 ranked team in Kentucky 1A, Holy Cross. The Pioneers battled the Cougars to a one-touchdown game in which first-year player junior Devin Goodrow showed immense improvement as a center on the offensive line, and the Pioneers began to further develop their offensive identity. In this game, Krininger scored his first varsity touchdown, and receivers Wall and senior Carson Heldman made crucial plays in the passing game.  We are looking forward to continuing this small-school, cross-river Catholic rivalry with Holy Cross.

The Pioneers then won two of their next three games, with a physically dominating performance against Mitchell, in which the offense rushed for 405 yards, led by Gettelfinger’s 260-yard performance. The Pioneers then won their third game of the season against Milan, a top ten 1A program. Though they were severely undersized compared to the Indians, the Pioneers physically dominated the game. For the first time, the Pioneers had two 100-yard rushers, as Gettelfinger paced the rushing attack with 156 yards and Murphy added 122 yards. Gettelfinger also added a passing touchdown to his stat sheet on a halfback pass to senior Isaac Ohlmann, which gave the Pioneers the lead for good and propelled the Pioneers to victory on Homecoming Night.

The Pioneers opened their playoff run with a dominating performance at Union County. After a nearly three-hour bus ride, the Pioneers were forced to wait out a storm in Union County’s locker room, and the game was delayed until nearly 9:00 that evening. Not letting the adversity of the long bus ride and delay affect their performance, the Pioneer defense held Union County to only seven points, and the offense dominated on the ground, scoring 42 points, their highest point total of the season.

After Mitchell was forced to forfeit the second round game due to COVID, the Pioneers traveled to Triton Central High School for a sectional championship game against the 4th-ranked 2A Tigers. Unfortunately, the Pioneers were not able to pull out the victory, but Gettelfinger rushed for 118 yards on 13 carries.

The 2020 season was overshadowed by the constant presence of COVID-19. The team dealt with a barrage of quarantines, game cancellations, and schedule changes, but never allowed the virus to deter them from their goals of always giving relentless effort, demonstrating character first, and placing the team’s needs before their individual desires.

In the years to come, we will look back on these nine seniors:  Carson Heldman, Jaxon Murphy, Isaac Ohlmann, Weston Kaiser, Jeremy Gettelfinger, Kole Krininger, Nathan Striby, David Wall, and Michael Vaughn, as the class that laid the foundation for our future success. They could have allowed the adversity and uncertainty that encompassed the entire year as an excuse to go through the motions and not lead our young team in a positive manner, but they chose to give relentless effort and set the stage for future Pioneer Football players to enjoy much success (and we WILL enjoy a lot of success in the near future, and in the many years to follow). Coach McDonald will always be grateful to these nine young men for their resiliency and character through this season.

Some key stats from this season:

  • Jeremy Gettelfinger dominated on both offense and defense in what SHOULD be an “All-State worthy” individual performance. Jeremy rushed for 1,118 yards on 153 carries (7.3 yards per carry) and led the defense with 66 total tackles.
  • From our “nickel” position, Carson Heldman tallied 44 total tackles and five tackles for loss.
  • In addition to playing very well at quarterback, Jaxon Murphy had a streak of five consecutive games with a forced fumble at the cornerback position.
  • David Wall led the defense with five sacks and was a nightmare for most teams to block all season.
  • Between rushing, passing, and kick returns, Jaxon Murphy tallied more than 1,000 all-purpose yards and totaled 51 tackles.
  • Freshman Brian Wall started every game on offense and defense. He recorded 35 tackles and 121 receiving yards.
  • Numerous freshmen have earned a varsity letter: Brian Wall, Carter Lannan, Alex LaMaster, Connor Sad, Luke Kruer, and Jaesynn Davis.
  • Nathan Striby finished the season having only missed one extra point and hit several crucial field goals.
  • Several Pioneers were playing football for the first time this year: Devin Goodrow (starter on the offensive line), Brandon House, Luke French, and Weston Kaiser (starter at corner).

The future of Pioneer Football is bright. Upon the foundation we laid this season, we will build a state champion caliber program in the years to come.

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