One inch and one point. That’s all that separated Pitman High from its first Division I SJS semi-final appearance and post-season elimination.
The Pride traveled to El Dorado Hills on Friday to face Oak Ridge High where they silenced critics and stood toe to toe with the heavily favored Trojans. In a rainy game that saw more turnovers than touchdowns, Pitman found itself trailing 17-16 in the final minutes of regulation. Mario Lewis had just scored an eight yard touchdown to pull his team within a point but head coach Brandon Harris wasn’t interested in a tie—he wanted to win. Pitman went for the two point conversion, again handing the ball to Lewis, but the Oak Ridge defense denied the attempt, tackling the junior fullback an inch short of the goal line.
“We didn’t come all this way to tie,” Harris said. “Not one regret; our kids played their butts off.”
Pitman had trouble keeping a hold of the football in the first quarter, losing three turnovers on its first three drives. While the Pride worked on maintaining possession, the Trojans jumped out to an early lead with a first quarter score when quarterback Jason Samuels completed a nine yard touchdown pass to Tanner Hughes.
Oak Ridge again stung Pitman with a 32 yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter to take a 14-0 lead but a Brent Nelle touchdown from five yards out made it 14-7 at the half.
“They were a balanced team,” Harris said of the Trojans.
Oak Ridge had trouble gaining ground against Pitman’s defense in the second half. The two teams traded field goals in the third quarter but the momentum was in the Pride’s corner with their constant rushing attack. Pitman threw only a few passes the entire game and didn’t punt, opting to dish the ball to Nelle, Lewis, and Kody Brackett with impressive results. Pitman fell short in the end but its coaches were proud of the effort. As for the players, that’s a different story.
“They were crushed; they thought we should have beat them,” Harris said. “It means the world to me that our kids played as hard as they did.”
Pitman will return next season with quarterback Wyatt Clapper, half back Logan Wolfley, and Lewis among others.
“They were just a hard working team,” Harris said. “They took another step for Pitman football. They were just an inch away from the final four.”