The Pitman Pride varsity football team emerged victorious from an offensive shootout Friday night, snapping a three-game losing streak and kicking off league play with a 50-47 win over the Merced Bears.
“It’s huge. It’s more than huge,” said head coach Tom Tyler.
The Pride was coming off back-to-back-to-back losses coming into Week 5 of the 2017 season and Week 1 of Central California Conference play, and two of those games were decided by one touchdown or less. This week, however, the Pride saw themselves on the winning end of the spectrum after their high-scoring performance.
“There were times in this game where we didn’t play very well, like we’ve done all year, but you know what? The kids persevered,” said Tyler. “They believed in themselves, and we got the stops when we needed them. I was really proud of them.”
Pitman running back Payton Bass led the Pride’s offensive charge, with six rushing touchdowns and 256 total yards. Two of those came in the first quarter – a 51-yard run into the end zone and an 18-yard touchdown carry – but the Bears answered with touchdowns of their own after both plays. A missed point after attempt by the Pride following Bass’ 18-yard carry meant Merced had a 14-13 lead in the game’s first quarter and a half, and the Bears were able to tack on another touchdown and a field goal with five minutes left in the half.
The Pride and Bears both came out after the half ready to continue their offensive race, with both teams scoring in the first three minutes of the third quarter. Bass answered an almost immediate Merced touchdown with a 57-yard touchdown carry of his own, making the score 31-20. The Bears retaliated, marching 80 yards down the field to complete a 25-yard field goal attempt, but Bass wasn’t done yet.
A seven-yard carry brought the Pride running back into the end zone with less than two minutes left in the third quarter, bringing the Pride within striking distance of the lead, 34-27.
“My offense was doing really good, and they were blocking really well,” said Bass of his impressive offensive performance. “I was getting through the hole and I was getting those touchdowns baby, all day.”
On the Bears’ next possession, the Pride forced a fumble recovered by Scott Tyler. This allowed Pitman running back Antonio Reyes to complete a one-yard touchdown carry on a five-play drive, tying the game at 34-34 as time expired in the third.
A 95-yard touchdown run from Merced running back Andre Barnett at the beginning of the game’s final quarter was almost the final nail in the coffin for the Pride, but they responded with a two-yard touchdown run from Bass. A mishandled ball on the point after attempt was turned into a two-point conversion by the Pride’s Tyler Stout, allowing the Pride to take the lead 42-41.
The Bears were able to score again, but Bass was able to end the game for the Pride with just a minute left when he completed a one-yard carry for a touchdown, giving Pitman the 50-47 victory.
The Pride have a bye week next week, and will resume play at 7 p.m. on Oct. 6 in Atwater. Looking ahead to the Falcons, Tyler hopes the Pride can continue to win with momentum from their first league victory.
“I think it’s important to grasp onto what we really need to work on and continue to do that, then go on and get ready for Atwater,” said Tyler.