PITTSBURG - Scoring early and often, the Pittsburg Pirates coasted to a convincing 54-17 victory over the Spring Hill Panthers here Friday night at Pirate Stadium.
Senior halfback Deldric Shields accounted for 84 of Pittsburg’s 232 yards on the ground and added a 77-yard kickoff return for touchdown to open action. The Pirates, which rolled up 415 yards in total offense, were in complete control of this contest from the outset.
Jaylon Jimmerson, who completed 8 of 12 passes for 108 yards, connected with Cristion Williams on a 25-yard strike with 6:59 left in the third to make it 47-14.
Williams wound up with three receptions for 69 yards and two scores as the Pirates passed for 183 yards total with junior backup Brett McGee and halfback Tra’Jon Sheppard contributing to the air raid.
Spring Hill stormed out from halftime and moved 67 yards in just three plays with Zach Tulpa going in up the gut from 22 yards. Freshman signal-caller Gage White had paired up on a 23-yard pitch-and-catch with Ryan Willis to open the half.
The final Pirate points came when McGee and Williams made friends on a 29-yard rainbow with 7:53 left in regulation. Spring Hill closed out the scoring when sophomore Efren Barcenas stepped up and nailed a 47-yard field goal with 4:16 to go. Barcenas already had a 70-yard punt to his credit in the third quarter.
Much of the suspense left this game before many fans found their seats. The Pirates exploded for 28 first quarter points and strolled to the locker room at halftime with a comfortable 41-8 lead.
Shields more than set the tone when he fielded the opening kick and galloped back 77 yards for a touchdown. Despite a misfire on the point after, Pittsburg grabbed a quick 6-0 lead with not even 15 seconds elapsed.
The Panthers were unable to move the ball on their first possession and lined up to punt. D’Bravian Black couldn’t corral the snap from center and slapped the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
On the free kick Keontae Burns fielded the ball in stride and got the same results as Shields had, returning it 60 yards for a TD and suddenly the Pirates were in front 15-0. All this came about without the benefit of an offensive snap and not even two minutes elapsed in the opening frame.
Misfortune continued to hamper the Panthers as Tulpa fumbled on the ensuing drive and Mason Monts pounced for the Pirates. It took all of one play for Jimmerson to find Dejour Dowell in the back corner of the end zone and a 21-0 advantage with 10:06 showing on the clock.
Spring Hill got something going with its next drive as White pegged Black with an 11-yard pass and Tulpa added a couple runs moving to the Pittsburg 36.
The Pirates managed to stem the tide as White was dropped on third down for a loss by David By and EJ Hill deflected a fourth down pass by the freshman.
Pittsburg moved 64 yards in 10 plays and Shields found the end zone for a second time from eight yards out with 5:04 to go in a most eventful first quarter as the lead swelled to 28-0. Sheppard glided in on a Jet Sweep from 10 yards out at 10:14 of the second to make it 34-0.
Once again, misery compounded for the Panthers when Black, attempting to punt, fielded the snap on his knee and the play was blown dead.
The Pirates cashed in when Sheppard and Burns paired up on an 18-yard halfback pass to make it 41-0 at 8:40 before intermission.
Spring Hill finally got a little good fortune when Pirate punter Alex Rodriguez had the snap sail out of his reach. Morgan Bradford fell on the ball at the Pittsburg one. Tulpa skated in from a yard out and added the 2-point conversion with under two minutes in an otherwise most forgettable first half.
The Panthers (3-4, 0-2) are back home Friday playing host to the Buckeyes from Gilmer, while the Pirates (5-2, 2-0) make their pilgrimage to face the Pleasant Grove Hawks.
(Follow George Whitley on Twitter: @GPigskinprof)