high school football: Saline and Pioneer players, coaches pumped for highly anticipated rematch
Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com
From football fields more than 30 miles apart last Friday night, the trash talk between Pioneer and Saline football players started soon after the clocks expired.
Both won their district semifinal games -- Saline 16-14 over Temperance Bedford and Pioneer 34-0 over Monroe, and immediately started looking ahead to the rematch of their regular season game, a 7-6 Pioneer win.
"I just tell them to bring it because we're gonna bring it,” Pioneer running back Marquise Thomas said.
“They’d better be ready. We’re coming to get them,” Saline linebacker Caleb Ashby said.
There’s no love lost between Saline and Pioneer, who will meet Friday night in a district championship game at Saline.
But truth be told, these two teams have been looking forward to the rematch since long before it became official that week. Saline quarterback Tyler Palka said in Week 8 that he was hoping for a rematch, and vowed his team would score more than six points.
“As you can tell in the paper, I’m pretty excited,” Palka said Friday. “I can’t wait.”
Pioneer was the area’s most impressive team in the first round of the playoffs, recording a shutout against a Monroe team it lost to three weeks earlier.
It helped that the team had its players suspended for roles in the Oct. 12 Pioneer-Huron brawl back on the field after a week absence, including several key defensive players.
“We showed that we’re gelling at the right time on both sides of the ball,” Pioneer coach Paul Test said.
Test will be making his first appearance on the sideline since serving a two-game suspension for his role in the brawl.
While suspended, Test was able to still serve the same role during practice. The only difference was his absence from the sidelines for two games -- and even then, he had a veteran staff to lead the team, including former Dexter head coach Tom Barbeiri and former Saline head coach Mike Glennie.
“I’m very much pleased,” Test said of the team’s performance in his absence. “It helped to have the staff I have.”
After 13 total points scored in the two teams' first meeting, both think they can put up a better effort on offense. Pioneer moved the ball well, but turned it over six times, while Saline threw for 218 yards but ran for just 28.
“I’m sure they feel they have something to prove, we feel we have something to prove,” Saline coach Joe Palka said. “...It’s going to be a great challenge for us."