Austin Bradley remembers watching Granbury Pirate varsity football games in the eighth and ninth grades.
They won one game during that span.
Now, as a senior, Bradley and his teammates have carved their own place in Pirate lore.
With Friday’s 56-18 homecoming victory against Trimble Tech (1-7, 0-5 in 7-4A) on a cool, clear evening in Pirate Stadium, the Pirates (6-2, 4-1) clinched their third consecutive playoff berth – all since Bradley became a part of the varsity roster.
Only one time in GHS history have the Pirates reached the playoffs in more consecutive seasons, 1965-68.
“My freshman year I was in the band. I played tuba, and I went to every game,” said Bradley, an offensive tackle. “I was at the Joshua game when we ended our losing streak (24 games), winning 13-9.
“I remember it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we won a game!’ Now we can’t believe it when we lose.”
The Pirates own tiebreakers over South Hills and O.D. Wyatt, both 2-3. So if they were to lose to league-leading Aledo and get upset by Arlington Heights (2-3) in the season final, Granbury would finish no worse than fourth in district.
In the meantime, the Pirates will play for a share of the district lead Friday when they host three-time defending state champion Aledo (7-1, 5-0).
“Our motto this season was every game gets a little more important,” said Bradley. “We just keep thinking the next game is the most important.”
Senior receiver/backup quarterback Brandon Fichter moved to Granbury from Grand Prairie, where the Gophers have not been to the postseason in more than two decades. He caught a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Ryan Suitt Friday, continuing his pattern of being a major contributor in the Pirates’ return to the playoffs.
“I realized in the preseason that we had something special here,” said Fichter. “Everybody turned into a family, and they accepted me with open arms.
“I had to prove myself, but I felt at home right away.”
Fichter was one of nine receivers who caught passes Friday night, three for 90 yards.
Suitt played only the first half, as did most of the starters. The sophomore was near perfect passing, going 16-for-18 for 283 yards with no interceptions and five touchdowns.
Over the past two games Suitt is 44-for-60 for 624 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions.
“Without a doubt he’s doing exactly what we want him to do at exactly the right time,” said Granbury head coach Scotty Pugh.
Justice Love got the onslaught started with a 15-yard touchdown run, followed by a 4-yard pass from Suitt to Nick Doughty. Fichter caught a 50-yard scoring strike, Love broke free for a 40-yard TD run, and Thomas Weaver caught a 17-yard touchdown from Suitt.
When the first quarter ended, the Pirates had a 35-0 lead. Doughty caught another TD pass, a 23-yarder, and Fichter hauled in his second score from 8 yards out. The Pirates were up 49-6 at the half.
Nate Milson wrapped up the Granbury scoring with a 4-yard run in the fourth quarter, sandwiched in between a pair of Tech scores.
Pugh said even though they knew what was on the line Friday, he and his coaches did not discuss the scenario with the team.
“We tried to stay away from that and keep the emphasis on playing better than last week (a 42-24 loss to Southwest in Fort Worth),” he said.
“If we keep that idea in focus, we’ve got a great shot at being the best we can be when it counts the most.”
The Pirates will face a former district rival in bidistrict, either Crowley (7-1, 5-0 in 8-4A) or Cleburne (5-3, 4-1). Like Granbury, those teams will be in the big school division, but whether the Pirates will be the No. 1 or No. 2 big school seed from 7-4A has yet to be determined.”
DEFENDING CHAMPS NEXT
The Pirates will play their final home game of the season this Friday, and it will be their biggest challenge. Three-time defending state champion Aledo comes to town.
“There’s no secret, Aledo is where we want to go with our program,” said Pugh. “That is the type of program we want to be.”
The Bearcats graduated Johnathan Gray, considered by some to be the greatest high school running back in history. He rushed for nearly 11,000 yards and scored a national record 205 touchdowns in his career before moving on to the University of Texas.
But the Bearcats have continued to be one of the most powerful teams in the state, led by quarterback Pate Davis. He is completing 66 percent of his passes for over 1,400 yards with 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
Also, running back Jess Anders has over 800 yards and 11 touchdowns as the Bearcats are averaging over 414 yards and 40 points.
Granbury counters with Suitt, who has over 1,300 yards passing with 11 TDs and seven pickoffs. Also, Love has rushed for over 730 yards and ranks among the Metroplex scoring leaders with 96 points on 16 touchdowns.
The game will also feature two of the top defenses in the area. Aledo is surrendering 9.8 points and Granbury 17.8.
Whereas the Bearcats have been favored in each of their games this season (the one loss was 41-28 at 3A state power Stephenville), the Pirates have thrived on their underdog status. Despite back-to-back playoff appearances in 2010 and 2011, the graduation of 37 seniors had some wondering about the Pirates’ status this season.
Though they’ve wrapped up another postseason spot, Granbury finds itself as the underdog again.
And that’s just fine with them.
“We understand it’s us against the world,” said Fichter. “It’s more fun being the underdog.”
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Pirates 56, Bulldogs 18
Trimble Tech 0 6 6 6 – 18
Granbury 35 14 0 7 – 56
G – Justice Love 15 run (Jacob Rose kick)
G – Nick Doughty 4 pass from Ryan Suitt (Rose kick)
G – Brandon Fichter 50 pass from Suitt (Rose kick)
G – Love 40 run (Rose kick)
G – Thomas Weaver 17 pass from Suitt (Rose kick)
T – Malik Allen 1 run (kick blocked)
G – Doughty 23 pass from Suitt (Rose kick)
G – Fichter 8 pass from Suitt (Rose kick)
T – Darion Tennon 11 pass from Jerrick McClain (run failed)
G – Nate Milson 4 run (Rose kick)
T – McClain 9 run (run failed)
First downs 17 27
Rushes-yards 29-148 28-227
Passing yards 87 314
Comp-att-int. 9-27-1 18-24-1
Punts-avg. 5-35.4 1-33.0
Fumbles-lost 2-2 2-2
Penalties-yards 5-30 5-50
Tech – Malik Allen 20-69, Jerrick McClain 8-33, Chris Perez 4-29, Darien Tennon 2-17.
Granbury – Justice Love 5-64, Peyton Gilmore 2-56, Mike Milson 9-36, Nate Milson 4-34, Jake Blake 3-21, Kwaun Shaw 1-20, Daniel Arnett 1-6, Ashton Guerra 3-5, Cameron Hatfield 4-(-7), team 1-(-8).
Tech – McClain 9-27-1-87.
Granbury – Ryan Suitt 16-18-0-283, Hatfield 2-6-1-33.
Tech – Tennon 5-65, Jeff Maldanado 3-21, Perez 1-1.
Granbury – Fichter 3-90, Nick Doughty 3-56, Arnett 5-53, Thomas Weaver 2-40, Skylar Baskin 1-22, Max Swanson 1-21, Chris Richardson 1-18, Guerra 1-10, Love 1-4.
Granbury tackles – Caleb Bendewald 12, Nathan Urbanovsky 6, Brice Ables 6, Tristen Gilmore 6.
Granbury fumble recoveries – Jordan Buchanan, Colton McDonald.
Granbury interception – Zach Scott.