Pitman High entered Friday’s home game against Downey High with a team characterized by its youth. With only two returning starters from last year’s squad and the bulk of its roster comprised of juniors, the Pride knew that the Knights, back-to-back winners of the Modesto Metro Conference title, would be a difficult challenge to overcome in their season opener.
Downey lived up to its reputation as a team to be weary of with an effective, first-half passing attack that put Pitman on its heels. By halftime, the scoreboard shone in the Knights’ favor, but improved defensive play and a scoring spree of 29 unanswered points in the second half helped the Pride turn the tide on Downey and walk away with a 36-33 victory.
“I’m awful proud of the guys because we’re real young, and that’s a good football team we just beat,” head coach Tom Tyler said.
The Pride found the end zone first when a 44-yard run by Blake McBay set them up on Downey’s 9 yard line and a Quentin Hernandez fumble on the ensuing play was recovered by teammate Chris Romero for the score. After a series of turnovers on downs, the Knights answered back with a score of their own in the opening seconds of the second quarter off a Paul Wilson quarterback sneak from two yards out.
A failed two-point conversion made it 7-6.
Pitman continued its slippery-finger ways on its next two possessions, however, as they fumbled the ball away—first from Downey’s 1-yard line then from the 50-yard line. Downey capitalized with a pair of touchdowns from Isaiah Larry and Wilson to make it 7-20 by halftime.
“If we wouldn’t have turned the ball over so much I think we would have looked a lot better. We just put the ball on the ground a lot; we did a lot of young things,” Tyler said.
Downey scored again on its opening drive of the second half on an 8-yard pass to Mateo Vargas, but the Pitman defense put a lid on its offense soon after. In a reversal of roles, the Knights put the ball on the ground on their next drive. Pitman’s Ryan Boutelle recovered the fumble and Pitman’s offense drove 44 yards in two plays to cut Downey’s lead by 12.
Pitman crept closer to Downey’s lead with 4:08 left in the third quarter when quarterback Matt Carrigg connected with Donovan Bravo for a 59-yard touchdown before finally overtaking the Knights with another Bravo touchdown reception in the fourth quarter that was set up by a Hernandez interception.
Pitman’s defense kept the turnovers coming with a Devan Bass interception on the following drive which set up the Pride’s final score, an 8 yard touchdown plunge by Matthew Campa.
Downey scored its final touchdown with 1:43 left in regulation but was unable to prevent Pitman’s second half comeback.
Pitman recorded 492 total yards from scrimmage. Carrigg threw for 155 yards and two touchdowns while Bravo notched 122 yards and two touchdowns on only three receptions. Pitman’s AJ Cheney also contributed with two touchdowns.
“I was just telling the guys, Bravo might be the best guy we got, he’s a heck of a football player. He made a lot of plays tonight, kicked the ball well, too,” Tyler said.
Downey finished with 412 total yards, 235 of which came in the first quarter. Wilson finished the game with 329 passing yards, three passing touchdowns, and two rushing touchdowns.
Pitman will now carry their 1-0 record on the road to Lincoln High next Friday where it will face another challenging team in the Trojans of the San Joaquin Athletic Association.
“We know Lincoln’s going to be real tough,” Tyler said. “I tell ya, we got a lot better this week and if we do that every week we’re going to be ok.”