Pirates looking ahead to 2014 football season

The season didn’t end in the way they wanted, but the 2013 Granbury Pirates football team still generated more excitement than any team in nearly five decades.

They started 8-0 and won nine games for the first time since 1967.

And while they dropped two of their final three to finish 9-2, losing 72-6 to mighty Aledo and 56-21 to Waco in bidistrict, the Pirate faithful have reason to be optimistic about the playoff streak continuing next season.

“I feel bad for these seniors now that it’s over, but we do have a lot of talent coming back next season,” said head coach Scotty Pugh after the season-ending loss at Floyd Casey Stadium at Baylor University in Waco.

Numerous key players are slated to return, starting with quarterback Ryan Suitt. The junior ranked among the top passers in the Fort Worth area, throwing for 2,284 yards with 20 touchdowns and six interceptions.

But Suitt did more than throw the ball. He was also a threat with his legs. He was the Pirates’ second-leading rusher with 111 carries for 398 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The Pirates’ leading rusher and leading receiver are also juniors. Malik Allen (132 carries, 778 yards) averaged nearly 6 yards and led the team with 13 touchdowns on the ground. The move-in from Trimble Tech also caught 14 passes for 160 yards and a TD.

There is a strong supporting cast of offensive players expected to be returning. They feature junior running back Peyton Gilmore (37 carries, 229 yards), who averaged over 6 yards and scored three TDs, junior receiver Brendan King (12 catches, 294 yards, 24.5 average, four touchdowns) and junior tight end Thomas Weaver (13 catches, 229 yards, 17.6 average, one TD).

Senior Skylar Baskin (22 catches, 365 yards, 16.6 average, two TDs) was the second-leading receiver on the team behind junior Nick Doughty (43-890, 8 TDs), who recently transferred to another school.

Obviously, Suitt accounted for most of the Pirates’ passing yardage, but he, Allen and Gilmore also accounted for 80 percent of the team’s rushing yards. Doughty, King, Weaver and Allen comprised 68 percent of their receiving yards.

Suitt also did a solid job of spreading his passes around. Nine different Pirates caught a touchdown pass.

“That’s one of his strong points,” said Pugh. “He’s good at finding the open guy, and our guys have done a good job of getting open.”

Allen (84), Suitt (62), Doughty (56) and junior receiver/kicker Jacob Rose (33) combined for 235 of the team’s 390 points. Over the past two seasons Rose has been one of the most consistent kickers in the Fort Worth area.

Defensively, the Pirates also have some key players expected to return. Sophomore defensive back Landon Gray, with 73 tackles, ranked second on the team behind senior linebacker Dirk Glenn (82).

Also, junior lineman Landon Lambert posted two sacks, tying senior lineman Tristen Gilmore for second on the team behind senior linebacker Dirk Glenn with four.

Recapping the season

The season began with a 27-13 victory at Wichita Falls, avenging a 24-10 home loss at Pirate Stadium in 2012. That followed with a 42-0 thrashing of North Side in which every player on the roster saw action for a second straight year.

On the road again for the third game, the Pirates escaped Mansfield Lake Ridge, 44-41, on Rose’s third field goal of the game, from 22 yards.

After a week off, Granbury opened District 7-4A with a 24-21 road victory against South Hills. Then came a 56-13 homecoming win over O.D. Wyatt and a 49-30 road win against Western Hills, setting up the biggest game of the season to that date.

The Pirates trailed Southwest 40-27 in the third quarter on a cold and rainy night at Pirate Stadium. They came alive late as the Raiders imploded, and the combination was a 49-40 victory to improve to 7-0.

A 35-12 road victory against Trimble Tech moved the Pirates to 8-0, setting up a trip to the state’s top-ranked football team, Aledo. The Bearcats had been outscoring their opponents by more than 60 points, and did the same to the Pirates, winning 72-6.

The Pirates then found themselves trailing Arlington Heights 30-14 at home in the regular-season final with a quarter to play. Suitt engineered a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives, complete with two-point conversions, and then scored on a 7-yard run in overtime for a 37-30 victory and the ninth win.

The quest for the first playoff win since 1967 fell short, however. A 7-3 Waco team, playing in its own backyard, made certain of that by halftime.

Granbury struck first on its initial possession as Suitt hit Doughty for a 51-yard touchdown pass. The Lions scored the next 56 points.

Big picture

Some will argue the Pirates took advantage of a weak district. Some will point to being 0-4 in bidistrict over four seasons and being outscored 177-51 in those games. But progress has been made nonetheless, said Pugh.

“We can only play the teams on our schedule,” he said. “And we beat most of them. A few years we couldn’t say that.”

The second-place finish in 7-4A was the highest in a long time for the program. It came after finishing fourth, tied for third, and third the previous three seasons.

The lone district loss was to Aledo, arguably one of the best teams in the nation.

“We weren’t unique in that respect,” said Pugh. “They made a lot of teams look bad.”

The Pirates were 6-0 against teams with losing records and 3-2 against teams with winning records. They were also 3-2 against playoff teams, including the win over Wichita Falls, which advanced to the fourth round against Aledo.

As for losing again in bidistrict, Pugh said the season encompassed much more than that one game.

“Yes, it hurts,” he said, standing in the empty locker room at Floyd Casey. “And we fell short of our goal of winning a playoff game, but this team accomplished a lot and set the bar a little higher.”

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