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Ethan Pillar Powers Pine-Richland’s Grinding Offensive Attack



Pine-Richland Running Back Ethan Pillar

The Pine-Richland Rams pulled off the biggest upset to date of the 2023 WPIAL football season Friday, when they handed the Central Catholic Vikings a decisive 26-19 loss

Powered by senior running back Ethan Pillar, who operated out of the wildcat formation, Pine-Richland ran the ball at will against a Vikings defense loaded with Division 1 prospects. Pillar racked up 297 yards on 56 carries along with three touchdowns and spoke to the impact that workload had on him.

“I mean, I’m pretty worked right now,” Pillar said. “I’m bouta go home and sleep!”

While he didn’t shy away from discussing the toll those carries took on him, Pillar’s upbeat attitude made it clear that the big win outweighed any bumps and bruises.

Familiar Formula

Pillar’s heavy workload doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s seen the Rams play under head coach Jon LeDonne. They won the 5A State Championship last season following much the same formula, relying on running back-turned-quarterback Ryan Palmieri to wear opponents down. 

Pillar racked up 1,309 yards and 16 touchdowns alongside Palmieri in 2022 and said his relationship with the former signal caller is critical to his current success.

“Palmieri was just a hell of a dude. He was insane. It’s all credit to him,” Pillar said. “Everything he’s done I try to implement into my game. I just want to make ‘Palm’ proud.”

Pace of Play

The grinding attack helped Pine-Richland keep the football out of the hands of Central Catholic’s potent offense, a common template for success against high-powered teams. Ethan Pillar said the Rams felt confident in their game plan based on what they saw on film. 

“We plan on running the ball on most teams. This team we thought we could run the ball especially well,” Pillar said. “We had an o-lineman down, a starter, and that still didn’t matter. That just motivated us even more.”

Pillar mentioned a tote late in the game as the moment when he started to feel the mileage pile up. Driving deep in Vikings territory, looking for a first down to ice the game away, Pillar found himself at the epicenter of a pile of crashing bodies, offensive and defensive linemen all around him.

“It was over there, that [play] got stuffed. I got picked up and I was like ‘pffft, we’re going for a ride I guess.’ I mean, that’s where I started hurting pretty bad,” Pillar said. “But our o-line did a good job. I can’t wait to look back at the film and see what we can improve on.”

All Business

It’s a testament to the job that LeDonne has done during his two years leading the program that his players speak to the media like seasoned professionals, already focused on the film room and the next game within moments of one of the biggest games of the season. It doesn’t seem canned, either: that’s just the way the Rams do business.

After suffering an ugly loss at the hands of North Allegheny last week, Pillar said Pine-Richland was ready to rebound. That they’d have to do so against one of the toughest teams in the WPIAL didn’t matter. 

“It felt pretty good, because we took that L against NA,” Pillar said. “And I just really wanted to win this game like everybody else on the team.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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