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Pitman drops tightly contested homecoming game against Gregori
Pitman football
The Pride’s Dylan Freeman celebrates his 5-yard touchdown with Isaac Simoes Friday evening during Pitman's homecoming game against Gregori (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

For most of the second half in Pitman High’s varsity football matchup against the Gregori High Jaguars, it seemed as if the Pride were in control and cruising towards their second win of the 2022 season. But as we’ve seen time and time again in sports, things can change in an instant.

After taking a 21-14 lead with just over six minutes left to play, the Jaguars – particularly running back Michael Marsden – showed off their speed and agility to score two touchdowns in as many possessions, giving the visiting team a 28-21 win.

pitman football 2
Pitman's Marc Ouse takes down his Gregori opponent with assistance from Dylan Freeman during the homecoming game Friday evening (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Coming into Friday night’s matchup, Pitman and their 1-6 record were considered underdogs by many area football fans. But for the first 42 minutes, the Pride’s play reflected something greater than what their record showed.

In the first quarter, after failing to knock through a field goal, the Pride had the Jaguars backed up deep in their own territory. On the very first play of the Gregori possession, the ball was snapped over the head of quarterback Grant Veneman. Veneman recovered the loose ball in the end zone as he was tackled by a gang of Pitman defenders, securing the safety and a 2-0 Pitman lead.

The Jaguars came roaring back, though, as Veneman made up for the error on the next possession when he found wideout Trey Webb for a 28-yard touchdown strike, putting Gregori up by a score of 7-2.

The Jaguars were right back in business after their defense executed a Pitman three-and-out. With the ball back with Gregori, Marsden scored his first touchdown of the night from one yard out, extending the lead to 14-2.

The Pride were desperate to score before halftime so that the game wouldn’t get out of hand, which is when Pitman head coach Eric Reza gave quarterback Drew Walker the green light to show off his arm. After a 31-yard pass to Adam Quezada gave the Pride excellent field position, Walker found Dylan Freeman in the endzone for a 5-yard touchdown, making it a 14-9 game at the break.

After the half, the third quarter was a defensive struggle for both teams, who each failed to score any points. In the fourth quarter, the Pitman coaching staff decided to take a gamble that would change the pace of the game from that point forward. Faced with a 4th and 8 situation at the Gregori 33-yard line with 10 minutes left in the game, Reza and his staff ordered the offense to remain on the field. With the ball snapped, Walker dropped back and delivered a perfect pass to running back Joey Stout for a 33-yard touchdown, sending the large Pitman homecoming and senior night crowd into a frenzy. A two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful, leaving the Pride with a 15-14 lead.

“Drew was really good tonight. He saw the field really well. Distributed the ball well and just did a really good job tonight,” Reza said. “The coaches discussed [the fourth down play] in the headphones and that’s what we came up with. Joey got open and Drew hit him right there with the pass.”


On the next possession for Gregori, the Jaguars were once again quickly forced to punt. A booming kick by Jace Guzman forced Pitman’s Stout to field the ball at the 9-yard line. The agile Stout proceeded to turn a quick corner on the first Gregori defender in front of him before rushing down the home sideline to the opposing 20-yard line. Stout then cut back across the field to avoid an additional pair of Gregori defenders to cap off a 91-yard punt return touchdown, giving his team a 21-14 lead.

It was at this moment that the momentum suddenly turned. On only the second play of the ensuing Gregori possession, Marsden found an opening and broke lose for a 44-yard touchdown to tie the game. The Jaguar defense then quickly forced Pitman to punt. Again, with the ball in his hands, Marsden broke lose once more for a 43-yard touchdown score to give the Jags a 28-21 lead with just over two minutes remaining. The Pride would fail to execute the comeback in the waning minutes and officially dropped to 1-7 on the year.

“Defense was really good tonight, they played really hard with a lot of heart, it’s just that one or two plays here and there that they couldn’t get the stop, but that’s football,” Reza said. “They have a lot of big boys who wear on you, and that’s a great running back. It all comes down to execution, so hats off to them.”

Being the last home game of the season, Reza shared the message he had for his seniors in the postgame huddle.

“I want them to know that they can persevere in not only football, but anything they do in life. This is a game, but it’s a game where you have to count on other people and teamwork,” Reza said. “I’m just happy to be a part of the Pride.”

Pitman will continue to search for that evasive second win of the season next week when they head to Modesto to take on the Panthers of Modesto High.