After senior running back Marcus Garza scored on a 2-yard rushing touchdown to give his team a 37-33 lead with 76 seconds left in the game, Pitman head coach Tom Tyler faced a dilemma.
Would he have senior kicker Caden Speckens kick the ball into the end zone or try an onside kick it with the hopes of recovering it?
Tyler told Speckens to go for the latter, and to kick it at an angle into the second row of Downey players. He kicked the ball a little too hard and on the wrong angle but it worked out well.
Speckens’ kick went off of Downey’s Nathan McGaffee’s leg and bounced right in front of a couple of Pride players who recovered it as Pitman (9-0, 4-0) remained undefeated with a 37-33 come-from-behind victory over host Downey on Friday.
“Honestly, I just went for it and I was told to hit 24 (Jordan Wilson), the second guy behind them but I drilled the first kid and it bounced off of him pretty good,” Speckens said.
The gamble paid off.
“He was supposed to hit it at an angle and it ended up going right at that guy,” said Tyler, who was worried about kicking deep after Downey (5-4, 2-2) had a couple of nice returns, including a 75-yarder in the third quarter..
With the win, Pitman will face Turlock in the Harvest Bowl next week for the Central California Athletic League title. Turlock beat Gregori on Friday and both teams are 4-0 in CCAL play.
Just like last week against Modesto, the Pride found themselves trailing entering the fourth quarter and for the second straight week, they rallied.
Down 33-23 with a little under 11 minutes left, the Pride went into their bag of tricks as senior quarterback Treyton Fair executed a perfectly drawn fake double reverse handoff before finding senior Payton Bass wide open down the right sideline for 52 yards and the score.
“Its one of those things that if people are going to spend that much energy trying stop the run, other things are going to open up,” Tyler said.
Bass was a little shocked to be that open and said it does add a little more pressure to catch the ball with nobody around you.
“Everyone is depending on you to catch the ball and score the touchdown,” Bass said. “I got that down and I scored.”
Much like his brother, Devan, who leads Modesto Junior College with 704 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, Payton has been a workhorse for the Pride this year as he entered Friday with over 900 total yards and 15 touchdowns.
Bass had a big game on Friday with 231 total yards and a touchdown but his last yard was maybe his biggest of the night.
The Pride went for it on fourth down with over two minutes left and Bass was drilled at the line of scrimmage but fell forward for a first down.
“I thought it was really close,” said Bass, whose yard came just before Garza’s go-ahead score. “I pushed my feet real hard because I knew I needed that first down to get the win.”
While the Pride owned the fourth quarter, they were outscored 20-7 in the third. Knights junior quarterback Bryce Gouker had two touchdowns, a 4-yard pass to senior Bryce Peterson and a 24-yard pass to junior Bronson England.
The Pride were in a dangerous position but Tyler had a message for his team before the start of the final quarter.
“He was telling us to keep our heads up,” Bass said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. Our defense had to step up and our offense had to step up and we did what we did and we got the win.”
Tyler said this senior group that includes Bass, Fair, and his son, Scott, have persevered through a lot during their time at Pitman and Friday night was just another obstacle they were able to overcome.
“They have always done a really good job of competing,” Tyler said. “They have a little bit of nasty streak in them. They play hard and bust their butt off.”
Gouker was 19 for 22 for 167 yards and 3 touchdowns for the Knights while Peterson had nine receptions for 71 yards and a score.
Downey ends the season against Modesto.