The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Pioneers start slow, then roll over Valier 47-6


September 2, 2020

The rumpled appearance of new wrinkles in the Big Sandy offense ironed out smooth in the second half of a 47-6 win against visiting Valier in Friday's football season opener.

"It was very sloppy," said Pioneers head coach Larry Jappe. "I was not happy in the first half."

Three consecutive seasons of state playoff appearances and a combined 26-7 record during that run can make for a 29-0 halftime lead that isn't up to snuff.

"We kind of figured out what was working against them," Jappe said, in the second half. "When everybody did what they were supposed to, we looked good. When not everybody did what they were supposed to, we didn't look so hot."

The Pioneers lined up in spread formations little-used a year ago, when Big Sandy routinely ran over hapless foes with a combination of Kade Strutz and Brock Proulx in the backfield. With the elder Proulx graduated, his brother and quarterback Parker Proulx shifted to running back and wide receiver duties and former backup passer Kody Strutz starting as field general, a learning curve could be expected.

"Before I moved here (from Utah), I always played wide receiver and running back," Proulx said. "Now that we have Kody (ready), he's great."

Proulx carried on the Pioneers' first three snaps from scrimmage before setting up Strutz to rush 17 yards to paydirt and score on his first carry of 2020, with 8 minutes, 32 seconds to play in the first quarter. A mishandled pitch on their ensuing possession left the Big Sandy defense to make a goal line stand to avoid an answering touchdown by the Panthers.

Strutz coughed one up on the Pioneers' next drive but the defense held yet again. Finally, with a short field midway through the second quarter, Big Sandy found success in the passing game and Proulx hauled in a 9-yard lob over the top of the Panther secondary. That ended an uncharacteristic scoring drought of more than 14 minutes of game time and pushed the lead to 13-0.

A third fumble hit the turf for Big Sandy on their next possession but Cam Schwarzbach made a heads-up play to fall on it and preserve a scoring drive. A 25-yard quarterback keeper by Kody Strutz mirrored the play he made a snap prior - called back due to a holding penalty - and his touchdown took it to 21-0 for Big Sandy.

The Strutz brothers connected through the air for 26 yards to set up a 3-yard plunge by Kade to provide the halftime tally.

Proulx picked off Panthers quarterback Tyler VandenBos to start the second half and Dillin Geyer collected a fumble by rusher Brody Connelly on the next Valier drive.

"Last year, I averaged one interception per game," Proulx said. "That's kind of the goal, to beat that."

Lance Rutledge and Wylee Snapp provided crucial blocks to spring Kade Strutz for a 34-yard sprint down the left sideline and make it a 35-0 contest, with 7:23 to go in the third quarter.

"I can always rely on my teammates to get good blocks ... they make my job really easy," Strutz said.

Strutz never looked so fast as he did when he swiped a VandenBos pass for a pick-six from 56 yards away and run the lead to 41-0.

"I wasn't expecting that ball to fall in my hands," Strutz said. "When it did, I took off for the end zone as fast as I could."

In the final period, Kade had the opportunity to complete a pass. Then he could not resist an open field for a QB keeper of his own to provide Big Sandy's final score on a 33-yard rush as 7:37 remained in the game.

With the Pioneers' bench emptied for the last drive, Valier avoided the shutout when Brett Stoltz caught a 17-yard Cam Stoltz pass over the top in the final minute.

Proulx led Big Sandy with 11.5 tackles and Geyer added a quarterback sack. Jappe said he expects an even better defensive performance in the Week 2 road trip to Rudyard to face North Star. Senior defensive end Brady Pleninger is expected to make his season debut against the Knights.


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