Friday wasn’t the best night for the Pitman High Pride varsity football team when they hosted Napa at Joe Debely Stadium.
In a rematch of last year’s first round CIF Division I Sac-Joaquin Section playoff game, the Pride were a year older and wiser but the outcome unfortunately was the same.
The Pride dominated the first quarter, putting up the first score of the game along with two interceptions from Devan Bass, but by the start of the second Napa had already tied the game and stopped Pitman on a crucial 4th and 1 from about 17 yards out.
Napa rallied to score twice before the half and after a late score and stop by Pitman in the closing minutes of the game, Napa’s Cal Bard picked off quarterback Jacob Perez in the end zone and returned it for over 60 yards as the time expired and the score ended with a 21-14 Pitman loss.
“It was like a playoff game, everything. To us it was a playoff game, but it’s just tough and you hate to lose that way and end like that,” said offensive coordinator Don Curtiss. “The kids battled, both teams battled. It was a good hard-fought football game; I don’t know what else to say.”
“We kept playing and got a few injuries, but they are a good team. Napa is a good team, we just made mistakes, and that’s what happened. We beat ourselves,” said Pitman running back Blake McBay. “It was too late and we came out with all our hearts and guts, if we get that going in the first quarter it gets us the win.”
McBay finished the game with 111 rushing yards on 13 carries and a touchdown.
Pitman came out with full force in the opening minutes, playing aggressively and matching the Indians hit-for-hit and then on the ninth play of the opening drive, Bass intercepted Bard for his first of the game and gave his team momentum.
It only took Pitman two plays in their opening drive to score when McBay busted loose for a 76-yard run up the gut after a few broken tackles, putting the Pride up 7-0 with 7:28 on the clock.
Napa nearly fumbled their kickoff return, but held on, and again, on the ninth play of Napa’s second drive, Bass picked off Bard once more.
Eventually Pitman marched inside Napa’s red zone but they were stopped a yard short on a fourth down and Napa took over, only to tie the game with a 25-yard run by Bard to redeem himself.
Pitman made another mistake on the ensuing kickoff, where a bobbled return gave Napa possession with great field position and essentially the Indians scored in the closing minutes of the first half to go up 14-7.
“We had drives where we didn’t execute and we missed tackles but the kids stepped their game up since the first week and hopefully we keep it going,” said Curtiss.
Napa, who played nearly flawless in the second half was on a roll, rushing the ball behind a stout and disciplined offensive line that caused problems for the Pride throughout the game.
After a physical first half, both sides came out and were relentless against one another, causing big hits for both sides.
Both sides went scoreless in the third quarter but as the fourth began, Napa plunged their way into the end zone after Nathan Toma buried the ball for 20 yards with 11:08 left in the fourth.
Down by two scores in the fourth quarter, Pitman rallied in the ensuing drive to notch their second score after a 10-play drive that ended with a Mehki Anker 40-yard touchdown pass.
Then in the next drive, Napa with an opportunity to seal the deal was stopped on a big fourth down tackle from Bass.
The Pride marched down the field to the three-yard-line, but after a delay of game with less than 20 seconds remaining, the Pride were backed up and eventually settled for a deep throw that was picked off by Bard as the clock struck all zeros.
“This is a building block. You saw what we did in the fourth quarter and almost came back and that gives us motivation,” said McBay. “We know we can hang with a playoff team like this and we will get there, we just gotta keep working hard.”
“If we can compete with Napa we can compete with anybody,” Curtiss added. “It’s awesome, our kids just didn’t quit. They do not quit. If you look at our sidelines we look like a mash unit, we got guys all over the place.”
The Pride’s next game will be away against Deer Valley at 7 p.m. Friday.