The Pioneers enter the field ready to get the new season started. Photo courtesy of Murray Sports Photography. click here for more great pictures of both teams and the band. Thank you Lou Murray !

The Pioneers would host the Dux of Zeeland West to open the 2021 varsity football season. The kickoff was delayed by a short storm, but the weather didn’t affect the players, band, or fans. Everyone was eager to see and play some football.

The Zeeland West Dux had to forfeit their last game of the 2020-2021 playoffs, so to say they were ready to get back on the grid iron would be an understatement. The Pioneers lost their last game to the Big Reds of Muskegon in the playoffs and likewise were ready to get back on the winning track. Replacing graduated talent is always a challenge, as both Coach Casey Longo (East) and Coach John Shillito (Zeeland West) would again embrace.

East had 17 players from last years squad graduate including their quarterback and running back. Replacing them this year is QB David Bernecker and RB Andrew Caswell. They are Juniors but did see playing time on the varsity team as Sophomores.

The Dux would field a young backfield as well. QB Trevor Wallar, HB Skylar Geurink (#1), and HB Parker Lovell (#5) are Juniors while FB Parker Holman (#6) is a Sophomore. This presents a challenge to any coach, however Coach Shillitos’ Full House backfield is a complex offense that requires intelligent, athletic, fundamental execution from all 11 players. The youngsters were equal to the task.


East Grand Rapids would begin the game with the football, as the Dux would defer the option having won the coin flip. The Pioneers would put together an opening drive that would end without any points on the scoreboard, but a lot of positive momentum was generated. The Dux would then start their first possession on their own 4 yard line after the East special teams pinned them deep. A methodical 96 yard drive would be capped off with a 5 yard TD run by Geurink. The 2 point conversion was successful, punched in by Lovell, and with just 31 seconds left in the quarter the Dux were in front 8-0. Geurink would add three more scores from 2 and 10 on the ground and a reception for 23 yards and also catch two 2-piont conversions.  He would end the game with 90 yards on 16 carries, two catches for 25 yards, 4 touchdowns and 2 2-piont conversions. Lovell and Holman also found the end zone from 3 yards each.

East Offense would also score 4 touchdowns, one by Caswell (27 yds) and 2 by Nathias Grady (9 and 5 yds) as well as a 48 yard TD run by backup QB Preston Bergstrom. Starter Bernecker was sidelined after an apparent stinger to his throwing shoulder. Bergstrom would end up seeing the majority of the snaps. The two play callers would utilize several different receivers including the speedy combination of WR’s Damien Fortson and Connor Callahan. Ian Masek, Oscar Osborne, Joe Rose, and Grady.

(Caswell scores from 27 yards, Grady gets the Wildcat snap, and Bergstrom scores from 48) For more pictures see the link at the top of the page.

The Pioneers defense faced possibly their biggest challenge of the season in week one. In my opinion the Full-House, “Hide-the-Pill” offense features several different options on every play. Each defender needs to maintain his responsibilities, utilize discipline, and fundamentally wrap up each potential ball carrier. One slight mistake by any defenders can result in a big play. Then just as you get 9 men in the “box” defending the run, they step back and find a tight-end or a running back out of the backfield for a big play through the air.

Unofficially, the Dux finished with 382 yards on 46 carries averaging 8.3 yds per. The Pioneers finished with 250 yards on 36 carries with an also impressive 6.9 yds per, additionally 94 yards through the air. East turned the ball over 3 times while the Dux gave it up only once.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for East. They travel to East Kentwood to battle against the Sailors of South Christian in week 2 before returning to the shores of Reed’s Lake to open the OK-White season against GR Christian.

The Dux will also have a difficult few weeks ahead. In week 2 they are off but, then Host the Big Reds of Muskegon followed by last years Conference Champs as well as State Champs Mona Shores.