Running back Alex Barnes was everything the Pittsburg Purple Dragons needed him to be Friday night at Frary Field.
The junior scored all five of Pittsburg's touchdowns, bringing his touchdown total to 11 on the season in their 33-20 victory over their rivals from Bourbon County, Fort Scott, to keep the Purple Dragons undefeated at 3-0.
Barnes would have 30-plus carries to help his team avenge last year's 41-20 loss to the Tigers.
The Tigers were entering the game banged up with former starting quarterback Zach Denton out with an injury for the rest of the season after tearing the ACL in his right knee in last week's game against Columbus. Mason Knopp was his replacement. The Tigers also had injuries to Chase Brown and other players from last week.
The Tigers entered the season as the favorites to win the Southeast Kansas League but now find themselves with a 1-2 overall record.
A defensive first half gave way to an offensive second half with all but seven points of the 53 combined points taking place in the final two quarters.
The Purple Dragons saw their 14-point lead erased with consecutive touchdowns by the Tigers in the third, sending the game tied heading into the fourth before the Purple Dragons scored 13 unanswered points in seven minutes to take a 33-14 lead.
The game started off with a sloppy first half with both defenses making the stops. Both offenses took a lot of time off the clock as the first quarter was over in less than 30 minutes.
Barnes broke the deadlock with 2:30 left in the first with a six-yard run into the end zone on a play where he managed to make something out of nothing.
A 44-yard gain placed the Tigers in Pittsburg territory. But an incomplete pass by quarterback Mason Knopp led to a 4th and 15 on the PHS 29 where the Tigers went for it with a pass that was intercepted by James Clark. It was his first pick of the year.
Two fumbles by quarterback Riley Cunningham were quickly recovered by the Purple Dragons in the first half as Pittsburg struggled a little bit on a field that was soaked by Thursday night's inclement weather.
A run by Race Kasti placed the Tigers around midfield but they were unable to get much further and were forced to punt with under one minute in the first half.
Even though the Purple Dragons were getting the ball back to start the second half, they wasted no time in trying to extend their slim lead with a 20-yard run by Barnes to start their final drive of the half.
A pass intended to Ethan Paul-Davis in the end zone fell incomplete with 18 seconds left before halftime.
Page 2 of 3 - The Tigers blocked Nick Powers' field goal attempt as both teams went into the locker room after a first half that ended in less than one hour.
Despite being held to only seven points in the first half, the Purple Dragons offense still put up big numbers in total yardage but penalties kept getting in their way.
The Purple Dragons started the second half the same way they did the first by scoring on their first offensive drive with Barnes taking the ball, stiff-arming a defender on a diagonal run on a 43-yard run for his seventh touchdown of the year.
Facing third down and long, the Tigers converted with a 24-yard gain on a tight end drag with less than seven minutes left in the third. A few plays later and facing fourth and eight in Pittsburg's 23, the Tigers opted to go for it and converted with Knopp's pass to wide receiver Alex Finks on the thirteen.
A Knopp pass to the end zone was nearly intercepted by Barnes but fell incomplete before a roughing the passer was called on the Purple Dragons and moved the ball to the five. The personal foul did not result in a first and goal, causing an uproar by both head coaches with Fort Scott head coach Bob Campbell demanding that it should've been an automatic first down while PHS coach Tom Nickelson calling for it to be fourth down. After a brief discussion, the officials ruled that it would be third and two.
It wouldn't bother the Tigers as Fort Scott scored with Brendyn Quinney running the ball off the left tackle for five yards with 3:45 left in the third.
Cunningham made the third fumble of the night on the start of the Purple Dragons' next offensive drive. This time it was recovered by the Tigers, getting good field position to tie the game. The turnover led to Quinney scoring, again, a few plays later with an 11-yard run with the PAT tying the game at 14 with 2:43 left in the third.
A long drive of 55 yards put together by Pittsburg brought the ball to the Fort Scott seven and led to third and six where Cunningham was tripped up short around the three-yard line with 9:27 left in the game.
Facing fourth and two, the Purple Dragons gave the ball to none other than Barnes who scored on run off the tackle for his third touchdown of the night. The Purple Dragons' two point conversion was no good, leaving them ahead by six with 9:22 remaining in the game on a drive that lasted for 11 plays, covered 62 yards and took 5:15 off the clock.
Paul-Davis picked off Knopp for his first interception of the year gift-wrapped possession to the Purple Dragons inside the Tiger red zone. On the next play, Barnes scored on a run of four-yards. Pittsurg's two-point conversion failed with the Purple Dragons ahead by 12 with 7:38.
Page 3 of 3 - The Tigers faced a crucial fourth and five on their own 20 with 6:55 remaining and after taking a timeout, Knopp dropped back and threw but Barnes swatted the ball away to force a turnover.
A toss to Barnes and he ran the ball into the end zone from 12 yards but a holding called against Pittsburg brought cancelled the touchdown. But Barnes would get it back by scoring his fifth touchdown on a two-yard run with 4:54 and the Purple Dragons were suddenly ahead by 19.
Fort Scott's Joe Doherty scored on an 11-yard run as time expired.