Big comeback lifts team to clutch win
What appeared to be their worst moment in the 2013 football season turned into their best for the Granbury Pirates Friday night on Johnny Perkins Field at Pirate Stadium.
When Granbury’s Sam Allen tackled Arlington Heights’ Brennan Bibbs for a 1-yard loss in overtime, it sealed a 37-30 victory and capped a comeback from 16 points down in the fourth quarter.
But more important for the Pirates, it reinforced their belief in themselves, a belief that seemed to be shaken following a 72-6 loss at mighty Aledo the previous week.
“We’ll carry momentum from this into the playoffs,” said Granbury quarterback Ryan Suitt, who accounted for all five Pirate touchdowns. “We turned this into our best experience all year.”
Moments earlier, Suitt had scored the game-winning touchdown on a 7-yard run as the Pirates had the first possession of the overtime.
The victory sends the Pirates (9-1) into their bidistrict game against Waco (7-3) as the top Division I (big school) seed from District 7-4A. The game will be at Baylor University’s Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco Friday night at 7:30.
Overall, Granbury finished second in 7-4A, while Waco was second in 8-4A.
Heights (5-5, 5-2), which had a five-game winning streak ended, draws the unenviable task of meeting 8-4A champion Crowley (9-1) in bidistrict.
“We were bringing a (linebacker) off the edge. We caused some disruption,” said Granbury defensive coordinator B.J. Carlton.
“Really, the whole second half we played some of our best defense of the season.”
The Pirates found themselves down 30-14 as the fourth quarter got under way. It was largely the result of fumbling the ball away five times, compared to Heights not surrendering it at all.
“It doesn’t happen very often a team turns it over five times and wins,” said Pirate head coach Scotty Pugh. “I don’t want to have to do it again.”
Just when it appeared the Pirates were about to score and make it a one-possession game, Heights’ Romello Davis scooped up a loose ball and raced 89 yards for a 30-14 Yellowjackets lead.
Then, on the next possession, the Pirates gave up the ball for a final time at their own 45. Heights drove to the Granbury, but was forced to settle for a field goal attempt from 26 yards, which missed.
“That was big,” said Pugh. “And those two fourth-down stands after were huge.”
Suitt connected with wide receiver Nick Doughty, who made a shoestring catch, for a 42-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter. Suitt then ran in the two-point conversion to pull Granbury to within 30-22.
After Heights was forced to punt, Suitt drove the Pirates 80 yards in 10 plays, aided by a pass interference penalty. He scored on a 2-yard run, and then again connected with Doughty for the game-tying two-point conversion with 4:42 left in the game.
Heights, however, looked in good shape after returning the kickoff back to the 45 and reaching the Granbury 47 three plays later. But on fourth-and-2, Kameron Hill was stopped after gaining just a yard.
Granbury had a chance to win with time running out in regulation, driving from its own 46 to the Heights 22, but on fourth down an incomplete pass ended the threat. The Yellowjackets took a knee on the next play, running out the final 21 seconds of regulation.
The Pirates were playing without a couple of key players, including placekicker Jacob Rose. He and defensive back Kevin Hennard were out with concussions, and their status for the Waco game is up in the air, Pugh said.
“We just stopped making mistakes and held onto the ball,” said Suitt. “We absolutely stunk in the first half. We killed ourselves. We played sloppy.”
The Pirates fumbled on the first play of the game, and Heights drove 26 yards for a 6-0 lead. Granbury countered with a 32-yard touchdown pass from Suitt to Brendan King and a 7-6 lead midway through the first.
After a Heights 21-yard field goal for a 9-7 lead, the Yellowjackets took advantage of another Granbury fumble to go up 16-7 on quarterback Deion Hair’Griffin’s 1-yard run at the midpoint of the second quarter. Yet another fumble killed a Pirates’ drive at the Heights 42, but Granbury pulled within 16-14 on a 3-yard TD pass from Suitt to Doughty.
Heights increased its lead back to nine, 23-14, with 38 seconds left in the half on a 26-yard pass from Hair’Griffin to Bibbs.
“I’m really pleased with our composure tonight,” said Pugh. “We wanted to send these seniors out with a win at home.”
The Pirates finished 4-0 at home on the new synthetic turf at Pirate Stadium this season.
DEFENSIVE CHANGES PAYING OFF
Carlton said some defensive changes were made prior to the game at Aledo, and those changes paid off during the second half against Heights.
“It didn’t show then (at Aledo) or in the first half tonight, but in the second half tonight we could see that confidence starting to build,” he said.
Among the changes Carlton noted, Doughty moved to defensive back, as did Austin Stufflebean. Peyton Gilmore went to outside linebacker, Landon Lambert moved from the interior of the line to end, and Shawn “Big Country” Baker is getting more repetitions at noseguard.
BACK TO BAYLOR
For the second time in three years the Pirates will be playing a bidistrict football game in Baylor University’s Floyd Casey Stadium. This time, however, Pugh said the game takes on a little more significance.
The Bears will be moving into their new stadium next season and saying goodbye to the stadium that has been their home for many years.
“Floyd Casey is a great facility. It’s the home of a top-10 team in the BCS, and there’s a lot of history in that place,” said Pugh.
Just a few years ago Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III won a Heisman Trophy playing in that stadium for Baylor. Now, the Bears are among the national title contenders under coach Art Briles with the most explosive offense in America.
It’s a place where Grant Teaff’s team surprised the University of Texas in the Miracle On The Brazos in 1974 to end the Longhorns’ run of seven straight Southwest Conference championships. It was Baylor’s first win over Texas in 17 years.
“It’s so neat for high school kids to play in a college facility like that,” said Pugh. “It’s a reward for the kids, fans, everybody associated with the program.
“You made the playoffs. You deserve to play in the nicest venue you can get.
“And this could be close to one of the last ballgames ever played in that stadium.”
Suitt, Doughty and some others now on the varsity were called up from the subvarsity to join the team two years ago when the Pirates played Killeen at Floyd Casey, a 36-3 Granbury loss.
“This is a whole different team and a whole different scenario,” said Suitt. “It will be exciting to be there again.
“Hopefully some Baylor scouts will be there. I’d love to play for Art Briles.”
ABOUT WACO HIGH
The Lions finished the season strong, winning their final four games. This included a 34-7 drubbing of Everman in the regular-season finale to secure their playoff berth as they would have lost a tiebreaker to Cleburne in 8-4A.
Nine different players have combined for 18 rushing touchdowns, led by Phillip Roper (107 rushes, 498 yards, 6 TDs).
The Pirates are in the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season, matching the 1965-68 teams for the longest streak in school history. But for the first time in this current streak enter the game with a better record than their opponent.
The nine victories for the Pirates this season are the most since 1967 when the team advanced to the second round of the playoffs and were eliminated in a 0-0 tie with Crane, losing on penetrations. At that time, teams did not play overtime.
[email protected] | 817-573-7066, ext. 256
Pirates 37, Jackets 30 (OT)
Arl. Hts. 6 17 7 0 (0) – 30
Granbury 7 7 0 16 (7) – 37
AH – Tyler Kelly 3 pass from Deion Hair’Griffin (kick failed)
G – Brendan King 32 pass from Ryan Suitt (Bryce Gentry kick)
AH – Angel Gonzalez 21 FG
AH – Hair’Griffin 1 run (Gonzalez kick)
G – Nick Doughty 3 pass Suitt (Gentry kick)
AH – Brennan Bibbs 26 pass from Hair’Griffin (Gonzalez kick)
AH – Romello Davis 89 fumble return (Gonzalez kick)
G – Doughty 42 pass from Suitt (Suitt run)
G – Suitt 2 run (Doughty pass from Suitt)
G – Suitt 7 run (Gentry kick)
First downs 17 22
Rushes-yards 31-153 43-225
Passing yards 150 209
Passes 18-28-0 14-24-0
Punts-avg. 4-32.3 1-41.0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 5-5
Penalties-yards 7-57 6-50
Heights – Kameron Hill 21-123, Hair’Griffin 7-23, Kerrion Graves 3-7.
Granbury – Malik Allen 23-124, Suitt 20-81.
Heights – Hair’Griffin 18-28-0, 150 yards.
Granbury – Suitt 14-24-0, 209 yards.
Heights – Kelly 5-56, Bibbs 5-48, Davon Davis 3-22, Larry Johnson 3-12, Dunson Woodard 1-8, Hill 1-4.
Granbury – Doughty 4-84, King 3-69, Skylar Baskin 3-32, Thomas Weaver 3-28, Austin Stufflebean 1-22, Allen 1-(-4).
Landon Gray 11, Peyton Gilmore 8, Drik Glenn 7, Spencer Martin 6, Evan Sledge 6, Iza Villareal 6.