Forty days ago, the Pitman High football team had a golden opportunity. The Pride were facing Modesto High, considered the top large-school at the time. This was a chance to make history, to become the first team to notch a victory at the newly renovated Joe Debely Stadium.
The game was close, all the way until the fourth quarter, when the Pride were within four points. But inevitable injuries happened, a controversial call was made and history was not theirs: Pitman suffered an eventual 48-36 loss, leaving the players and coaches feeling dejected as they left the field and entered the locker room.
Forty days later, the Pride still remember that feeling.
“It was a game that we wish that we could play over, every day,” coach Brandon Harris confessed.
“We weren’t very disciplined at the time,” junior quarterback AJ Derr pointed out.
“In the beginning we were getting out the little kinks here and there and making little mistakes,” senior fullback Alex Rodriguez said.
Now there is a new Pitman team. The Pride are on a four-game winning tear — with all of the victories in double-digit fashion — after that Modesto loss. Up next is the Central California Conference opener against Golden Valley High at Merced College at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
Harris explained that his team has matured, though he feels like the Pride still have some work left to do before it’s all over.
At a recent Pitman practice there was no doubt that the Pride have been in a good mood lately. For example, the players finished off Monday’s practice by staging a pretend touchdown play, as Derr lofted an imaginary football to wide receiver David Gianesin, who utilized his tall, athletic frame to catch what looked like an overthrown pass. Touchdown!
Naturally, their teammates cheered. But, of course, Friday night will be a little different. Golden Valley is 4-1 overall after a tough preseason schedule that included well-respected out-of-town teams like Freedom High (of Oakley) and Clovis High. The Cougars have made an impressive turnaround from last season, when they finished 3-7 overall; that also included a 76-45 thrashing from Pitman.
Harris said Golden Valley is a well-balanced team, which “makes it tough to prepare for.” But the Pride are ready for this challenge, considering what they’ve been through to get to this point. They’ve dealt with key injuries, including losing their starting QB — Derr — for the second game of the season at Antioch High after he injured his hip against Modesto. They’ve matured, a sentiment Harris and his players have raised anytime someone asks them about the difference between this week’s Pride team and the one that suffered the season-opening loss to Modesto.
The Week 1 feeling, Harris said, is comparable to what the Pride felt after the 36-35 defeat against Oakmont High last season.
“We had a feeling (against Modesto) and it was the same feeling we had against Oakmont last year,” he added. “These two feelings we really can’t get rid of. The feeling was, we didn’t play as well as we thought we could play.”
Times have changed, however.
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