PREP FOOTBALL / ORANGE LEAGUE : Western Keeps Rolling in 31-0 Rout of Savanna
Nine games into the season, and Western is still waiting for its first litmus test.
Thursday, Savanna was supposed to expose the county’s only unbeaten team as a bunch of lucky interlopers.
But after a complete and stunning 31-0 dismantling of the Rebels in front of an estimated 1,100 at Glover Stadium, the only question left for the Pioneers is, who will they meet in the playoffs?
The Pioneers (9-0, 4-0) had a first-quarter goal-line stand and converted three of the Rebels’ four turnovers into 17 points.
“This was the first complete game we’ve played this year--both offense and defense,” Western Coach Jim Howell said. “The kids just did a super job tonight.”
None more so than running back Mike Mueller. A week after scoring five times against Anaheim, Mueller rushed for 75 yards and a touchdown, threw a halfback option pass to Sergio Garcia (whose other reception was an 11-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dean Chambers), caught three passes for 29 yards and had one of the three Western interceptions against Savanna quarterback Brandon Warden.
“All we’ve heard is we’re nothing but a bunch of cupcakes,” Mueller said. “Well, they can’t say that anymore. I think we proved we can play with anybody.”
Savanna running back Eric Shine would have no argument. The county’s leading rusher (1,567 yards) and scorer (120 points) entering play this week, rushed for 119 yards in 28 carries, but his biggest gain--25 yards--came on his final carry with less than a minute to play.
Savanna Coach Fred DiPalma was not among those who felt the Pioneers were untested and unchallenged by a schedule considered to be weak.
“If you watch them on film, you see that they do things right, especially on defense,” DiPalma said. “You don’t see Western give up the big play. Teams usually have to drive down field to score.
“They are tough, hard-nosed scrappers. You can move the ball, but they are very solid.”
On Western’s first play from scrimmage in the first quarter, Mueller fumbled at his 33 and Shine recovered for Savanna (6-3, 2-2).
The Rebels put the ball in Shine’s hands for five consecutive plays, and he carried them to the Pioneers’ one-yard line. But Savanna could go no farther, and Western got a huge lift when it stopped Shine for no gain on fourth down.
“That gave them the momentum, and once they got it they buried us,” DiPalma said.
Chambers got the Pioneers’ offense moving in the second quarter, and the half’s only touchdown was the result of an 80-yard, 11-play drive. Mueller made amends for his earlier mistake, bolting 24 yards to position the visitors at the Savanna 20, and eventually scoring the touchdown on a one-yard run with just over five minutes remaining.