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Pioneers hoping to continue cohesion versus Falcons

FOOTBALL-Preview of Sandy vs. Liberty
by: Kris Anderson The Pioneers hope to establish the run with Dustin Spencer, keeping the Falcons' potent running game off the field.

Having reached the midway point of the season, the Sandy Pioneers are flirting with one of the final openings for the state playoffs.

During their two league losses, the Pioneers trailed by a single score at halftime, yet each game fell apart in the second half.

An offense that has been reinvented after the first week of the season, has stumbled during the Pioneers' three losses this season, placing an onus on the defense to play extended minutes.

The defense has shown its potential by holding St. Helens and Wilsonville (who leads the league in points scored) to seven points in the first half. But the Pioneers' offense hasn't been able to stay on the field, causing their defense to wear down late in games.

Last week was the first signs of the Pioneers (2-3, 1-2) finding harmony on offense, as they defeated Rex Putnam, 53-27-two of those touchdowns were by Rosalio Menchaca on defense.

Quarterback Justin Adams was 12-of-22 for 297 yards and five passing touchdowns to go with one rushing touchdown. Wide receivers Nick Yungeberg and Ryan Cargill combined for eight receptions, 251 yards and five touchdowns.

But what head coach Ray Baker found most impressive was his offenses ability to take time off the clock. The Pioneers were able to run the ball late in the game, keeping the Putnam offense off the field.

This finally allowed the defense to catch its breath during the game. And it needed a break, as they were tasked with containing Deshawn Stephens, who has been touted as a future division-1 athlete.

This Friday, the Pioneers' defensive duties don't get any easier, as they will be asked to slow Brett Bafaro and the Liberty Falcons (2-3, 2-1).

Bafaro, a running back and linebacker, has been scouted by a number of D-1 programs and has already received offers from Oregon and Oregon State. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Bafaro provides the Falcons with the ability grind out opposing defenses, thus winning the time of possession battle.

'There's no apparent glitches (with Liberty),' Baker said. 'They have a good offense, good defense, good kicking game, well coached, they're able to make adjustments. So it could be our toughest game so far this year.'

Facing a team that can take time off the clock, the Pioneers' offense must do the same when they have the ball.

The Pioneers are a run-first team, yet, at times, they've struggled to establish the run, as issues with the passing game have allowed defenses to focus their energy on stopping the run.

The Pioneers hope that last weeks passing bonanza was a sign of development, because if they can show they can pass the ball, that'll open up the running game.

And opening up the running game will be essential, as time of possession could decide this game.

'I've been very pleased with our defense and the job our defensive staff has done,' Baker said. 'Offensively, we've needed to step up and we've done it lately. We need to have the ball more than them, and that's real important, so our defense doesn't wear down and they get a chance to be active and hostile.

'So if they can pursue and make their tackles, because they're playing a shorter amount of the game, then that'll be to our benefit.'

A win this week would move the Pioneers into a tie with the Falcons for fourth place in the Northwest Oregon Conference. Currently, the Pioneers are tied with Rex Putnam for fifth place in the conference.

After this week, the Pioneers schedule becomes easier, as their remaining games are against teams with a combined 3-6 record in league-one of those games is against first place, and undefeated, Sherwood.