There are athletes who play football. And then there are football players who are great athletes. There is certainly a difference between the two and just by watching Michael McMullen play football for one game it’s clear to see which category the Pioneer senior falls into.
McMullen is a football player with great athletic talents. He can run, he can cut and move and when he catches the football in space he’s dangerous – as the Huron River Rats found out last Friday. But McMullen can also block when the Pioneers decide to keep the ball on the ground and he also can hit and tackle, which he does often from his starting defensive-back position.
McMullen doesn’t play two-ways for Pioneer, he plays three-ways and turned a special team’s play into six points last week in his team’s 48-6 win over rival Huron.
McMullen, who also plays basketball and runs track for the Pioneers, is locked in on football and helping the Pioneers make the playoffs.
“We are heading into the tough part of our schedule,” he said. “We need to stick to what’s been working, keep each other up and play together as a team. Our defense needs to keep playing well and our offense needs to keep executing. And the seniors need to step up because now is our time.”
It was certainly McMullen’s time last Friday. He had four catches for 123 yards in the win over Huron. Quarterback Conor Easthope threw a pass to a wide-open McMullen that went for 85 yards and a Pioneer TD to push the lead to 18-0 with 10:17 left to play in the first half.
After a safety gave the Pioneers two points in the second half, McMullen went the distance on the following kickoff for a TD to make it 41-6.
The big win over Huron, which gave the Pioneers a 3-1 overall record heading into Friday’s game at Bedford, was extra special for McMullen. He spent his freshman year at Huron before transferring to Pioneer the summer before his sophomore year.
“I had always wanted to go to Pioneer so when we moved into the Pioneer district it gave me the opportunity to go where I always wanted to go,” he said. “The win over Huron was a meaningful game for me in a lot of ways. I know a lot of their players so it was really fun to do well against them.”
Coaches try to avoid having players go both ways because it can take its toll during four quarters, both mentally and physically. But sometimes teams just don’t have enough players to fill the spots, or in this case, have an exceptional athlete who needs to be on the field as much as possible.
McMullen, a senior captain for the Pioneers, is certainly up for the challenge.
“It’s not really a problem,” he says. “I will get a break if I need one or get subbed in every once in a while but not very often. I have the offense and defense down pretty well so from that standpoint it’s not very hard.”
The Pioneers have bounced back well after losing the opener to Anchor Bay on the last play of the game. They have won three in a row and appear to be on point and on a mission.
“Our offense just wasn’t executing like it is now and we had a lot of chances in that Anchor Bay game that we didn’t take advantage of,” McMullen said. “They were a good team but we definitely beat ourselves that game. We learned from it and moved on and just went back to work.”
McMullen, who started on defense last year as a junior and played some receiver for the Pioneers, feels this year’s team is more focused on the team aspect and that’s been a key to their early season success.
“I don’t think we played as a team as much as we could have last year,” he said. “As the season went on we weren’t playing as a team but more just playing for the individual stats.
“This year we are playing together as a team; as a family.”
As a captain, McMullen is doing what he can to help keep that focus on the team.
“I try to communicate with everyone and keep everyone focused,” he said. “Communication is a big key. And now that I’m a senior, I need to speak up on and off the field.”
McMullen hopes to play college football after graduation from Pioneer. He’s been talking to a number of schools in the area but won’t make any decisions until after the football season.
“The ultimate goal is to get to the playoffs and then go deep in the playoffs,” he said.
The goal seems to be coming more of a reality with each passing week for the talented Pioneers.
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