Willig finds positives in Pioneer’s season-opening loss

The mistakes made by Pioneer High in Thursday night’s 28-20 loss to Sunny Hills had nothing to do with a lack of talent or an unwillingness to play physical football.
Instead, the Titans’ problems stemmed from youth and inexperience. They had a pair of touchdowns called back because of penalties – including a beautiful double pass in the second half – and settled for field goals instead of TDs on two other drives as well. On defense, an encroachment penalty on fourth-and-four extended a Sunny Hills drive in the third quarter.
“The things that were the difference in the game are all fixable things,” said second-year coach Chuck Willig. “Our inexperience hurt us, but (the mistakes) are fixable.”
Pioneer held a 17-14 halftime lead, and extended it to 20-14 early in the fourth quarter. Senior quarterback Jonathan Jimenez threw a pair of touchdown passes and finished with 168 passing yards. On his first TD, a 6-yarder to Julio Reynoso, Jimenez extended the play by rolling to his right and showed great patience before lofting it for the taller receiver. On his next, Jimenez fooled Sunny Hills cornerback Brian Chiang with a great pump fake that allowed Matthew Rodriguez to get behind the defense for a 67-yard score.
“He’s only gonna get better,” Willig said of his quarterback. “We’re really excited about his growth and leadership.”
Pioneer’s special teams played well also. Christian Red blocked a first-quarter punt that led to the Titans’ first score, and senior kicker Michael Cano had a perfect night with two field goals (31 and 32) and two PATs.
“We played really hard on defense and we played physical and we matched a lot of (Sunny Hills’) energy,” Willig said. “It’s just a matter of growing.”
Eventually, Sunny Hills’ power running game wore the Titans down and led to a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. Senior Patrick Murano rushed for 200 yards and one score, and Brandon Vizcaya ran for 102 yards and three TDs. The Lancers ran the ball on all 21 plays in the fourth quarter and threw just three times all night.
“That’s a heck of an offense to face with a really young defense,” Willig said.
Pioneer returns to action next Thursday against John Glenn at La Mirada High.

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