Well, that didn’t take long.
The Pioneers, eager to shake out the offseason cobwebs, needed all of one offensive play to break off their first score of the 2012 campaign, a 50-yard off-tackle run by Jason Randall.
He went untouched, as did the Pioneers on their way to a 41-16 opening victory over rival Shawnee Mission North.
“We’re ready to roll this year,” said head coach Kevin Kopecky. “We expect to top every thing we did last year and more.”
Thursday’s showing left little doubt that the Pioneers are an improved squad in 2012, and ready to build on last year’s postseason appearance, the Pioneers’ first in decades.
Running back Jason Randall will have to be the one to take them there. He was in top form Thursday, picking up another long TD in Leavenworth’s second drive. For the night, Randall ran for 198 yards on 10 carries, good for a 19-yard average. He scored three touchdowns.
“The o-line did a great job opening holes tonight. It was a great team win,” said the junior running back.
After Randall’s second TD, it looked like the route was on at Shawnee Mission District Stadium. But that’s not how conference games usually work out.
In the second quarter, the Indians found the end zone on back-to-back drives thanks to the running trio of Henry Bell, Jesse Patterson, and Mario Lewis. With two two-point conversions, the Indians tied it at 16 with a little more than two minutes to go in the half.
The Pioneers didn’t need all that time.
Despite throwing an interception on their previous drive to set up North’s tying score, Kopecky wasn’t afraid to call quarterback Judson Cole’s name again. On the drive’s second play, Cole fired a bomb to receiver Jeff George for a 40-plus yard TD.
“The play was to get Cole’s confidence back [after the interception],” said Kopecky. “They were barely covering our receivers out there.”
From there, Leavenworth was too much in the second half. After each team stalled on their opening drive, the Pioneer offensive line parted the seas for Randall, who scampered his way for his third touchdown.
The Indian defense fell apart after that. North botched its coverage on the following drive, lining up without anyone in George’s zip code. Cole saw it and floated a lead pass for another long score.
“We just looked at each other and knew,” said Cole, who completed six passes for 132 yards and four touchdowns.
George caught two of the scores. Eli Keppler also had a pair in the 41-16 win.
The Pioneers next face the Raiders of Shawnee Mission South, who bring stiffer competition and a prize running back in Gabe Guild.
Leavenworth lost to South in 2010 by the score of 20-36.