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Second half surge leads Pittsburg to road win

Israel Polk catches a pass against Heritage on March 26, 2021. Gregory Moreland-Tuhn / Staff Photo
Israel Polk catches a pass against Heritage on March 26, 2021. Gregory Moreland-Tuhn / Staff Photo

The No. 3 in the Bay Area showed why it is ranked that high with a dominant second half performance after struggling against the Heritage Patriots in the first half. The Pirates (2-0) walked away from this game with a 35-16 victory over the Patriots (2-1). 

The game started quick for the Pirates, as they deferred the coin toss and came out on defense, forcing a very quick three-and-out. Then sophomore quarterback Jaden Rashada and Pitt came out on the Patriots 30-yard line and one play later were up 7-0, as the score came courtesy of senior Daytuawn Pearson. Pearson totaled 87 yards in the first half alone of this game and finished with 147 yards on the ground. 

On what some may have thought that be the start to another blowout win for the highly talented Pirates ended up being the opposite. The Heritage Patriots, led by the likes of Asher Haynes, Jaden Price and Devon Rivers, fought hard in this game. The Patriots responded to being down early by fighting to get back into the game. 

The defenses were the story of the rest of the first until the end of the first quarter, where Jeremiah Ruffin made a big play. A 25-yard touchdown from Haynes to Price made the score tied going into the second quarter. 

Next up was the Pittsburg senior quarterback and another Division I prospect in Eli Brickhandler. He led his team down the field in the middle of the second quarter to a scoring drive. Set up by a big catch and run by Matt Quesada, Will Stallings Jr. inserted himself into the backfield role with a 2-yard touchdown run. But Heritage would not go away.

Rivers, who was the Athlete of the Week in the first week, led the team down the field. Rivers finished with a hardworking 93 yards and a touchdown, but he came on in the end of the second quarter by putting the Patriots in position to kick a field goal and trim the Pittsburg lead to 14-10 going into halftime. 

Heritage was looking to upset the defending Bay Valley Athletic League champions, as it was just a touchdown away from taking the lead, but it could not get over the hump. After some big stops by the defense and a couple of interceptions, the offense couldn’t quite capitalizel. That led to yet another miraculous play by Brickhandler, who extended the play by rolling left out of the pocket and then finding senior Lamont Fortenberry in the endzone to take a 21-10 lead. 

Pittsburg’s defense was solid all night, as Xavier Willis looked like the 49er legend Patrick Willis. He had multiple sacks and big time plays on defense. The big defensive play came right after the Fortenberry score. A pick six by senior Julian “Juju” Velasco nearly put the game out of reach, as this extended the lead to 28-10. 

The “All In” mentality put in by the new Patriots coaching staff showed tonight, though, as Heritage battled to stay in the game. Some big plays set up Rivers for his score from 25 yards out to make it a 28-16 game.

Pittsburg just was too much to handle, as Brickhandler led his team to another scoring drive late in the fourth quarter when Pearson iced the game and ran the clock out. Brickhandler had one more redzone throw in him, though, as he hit Keionte Guess in the middle of the endzone.

The second half dominance by Pittsburg came from some halftime adjustments. Rashada and Brickhandler led their offense to another great performance, putting up 35 points, but they both expect to play better the next three weeks after starting their season 2-0. For Heritage, this game saw the first touchdown the defense gave up and it also came with its first loss of the season. The “All in” Mentality has changed the culture of the program around, as it has started its season off  at 2-1 after losing a tough battle. 

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Box Score: 

Pittsburg

Passing: Eli Brickhandler – 155 yards, 2 TD. Jaden Rashada – 35 yards.

Rushing: Daytuawn Pearson – 16 carries, 147 yards, TD. Eli Brickhandler – 3 carries, 13 yards. Will Stallings Jr. – 2 carries, 6 yards. Lamont Fortenberry – 1 carry, 3 yards.

Receiving: Matthew Quesada – 5 catches, 59 yards. Lamont Fortenberry – 2 catches, 40 yards, TD. Rick Camacho Jr. – 1 catch, 30 yards. Israel Polk – 3 catches, 26 yards. Keionte Guess – 2 catches, 13 yards, TD. Keynan Higgins – 1 catch, 12 yards. Daytuawn Pearson – 1 catch, 0 yards.

Heritage

Passing: Asher Haynes – 133 yards, TD. 

Rushing: Devon Rivers – 18 carries, 92 yards, TD. Jeremiah Ruffin – 1 carry, 35 yards. Asher Haynes – 6 carries, 32 yards. Tanner Smylie – 1 carry, 2 yards.

Receiving: Jaden Price – 3 catches, 48 yards, TD. Hanai Muhammad – 5 catches, 34 yards. Tanner Hartwig – 3 catches, 15 yards. Devon Rivers – 2 catches, 12 yards. Jeremiah Ruffin – 1 catch, 12 yards. Tanner Smylie – 1 catch, 4 yards. Anthony Meadows – 1 catch, 3 yards. 

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