The Pitman Pride (5-3, 1-2 CCC) football team played just like their namesake, with Pride against arguably the Central California Conference's toughest team.
Unfortunately, Pride alone wasn't enough to beat the MaxPreps #11 ranked Sac-Joaquin Section Merced Bears (6-2, 3-0 CCC) at Veteran’s Stadium in Merced on Friday, where the Bears eked out a win with just eight seconds left on the clock.
Despite losing the contest in the final seconds of the game, Pride head coach Tom Tyler praised his team’s effort.
“You guys played your hearts out and I’m extremely proud of you, you can hold your heads high after this one,” Tyler told his players after the game. “There is always going to be disappointment but in the big picture what’s important is it what we did here tonight. You will always remember this and you will remember who you are and what we did here tonight.”
What the Pride did was take the Bears down to the wire with gritty defensive play and a stout rushing attack that had the Bears' defense on their heels for much of the second half.
After a scoreless first quarter the Pride fell behind 7-0 with 10:32 left in the second. Following a Pride punt on the ensuing possession, senior defensive back Chance Hagar intercepted a pass and returned the ball to midfield. From there the tenacious trio of quick Pitman running backs, Mario Lewis, Drew Lewis and Logan Wolfley, pushed the ball down the field and Wolfley capped off a 50-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run with just under four minutes to go in the half.
For the game, the trio combined for 174 rushing yards on 43 carries (4.0 yards per rush) and two touchdowns.
In the third quarter the Pride took a 14-7 lead after a 69-yard drive featuring the tenacious trio, capped with a 2-yard scoring run by Mario Lewis.
Merced responded early in the fourth quarter to tie the game 14-14 and set the stage for an epic battle. With just under 8 minutes left Merced marched down the field and it appeared as if they were going to score, but the Bears coughed up the ball and Pride senior linebacker Jorge Pena recovered near the Pitman goal line.
With two minutes left, the Bears again seemed destined to score, but the Pride defense came through yet again, forcing a missed 33-yard field goal attempt.
Unfortunately, the Pride couldn’t find the end zone again. And with one minute left the Bears gained possession at their own 30-yard line.
The Bears quickly marched down the field and, with eight seconds on the clock, Bears quarterback Tyrone Williams found receiver Trevante Richard on a fade ball to the corner of the end zone for the game-winning score.
“It was a tough game to lose but the big picture is to build on this for next week against Golden Valley and then we know what’s after that (the Harvest Bowl against Turlock High),” said Tyler.
The Pride’s next game is at home against Golden Valley (3-5, 1-2), Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. For any hope at playoff contention the Pride need to win in both of their remaining games and they need help from other CCC teams.