PITTSBURG — A special opening night at Hutchinson Field saw the Pittsburg High School football team get its first win of the season 37-21 over Harrisonville.
The Purple Dragons’ offense was clicking on all cylinders, as quarterback Chase Curtis threw three touchdown passes — two to Dylan White — and had one rushing touchdown in the victory.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the kids and the coaches for the game plan they put together,” PHS head coach Tom Nickelson said. “It was a big test because we played a good team who already has a couple games under its belt. The kids never wilted and played through a lot of adversity. They played through a lot of cramping and physical pain, but they just kept chugging along. This group of seniors are tight, they play for each other and they’re completely selfless. They don’t care who is making the plays, they just do their jobs. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Curtis and White’s first touchdown connection came in the Purple Dragons’ opening drive of the game, scoring six points on a 31-yard bomb to the end zone.
A successful extra-point by Nathan Neef capped off the 10-play, 67-yard scoring drive.
Harrisonville responded with a five-yard touchdown run at the six-minute mark of the second quarter, before taking the lead at 13-7 with five minutes remaining in the first half.
The Wildcats’ second touchdown of the game was set up by their defense, which jumped on a fumble on Pittsburg’s 23-yard line.
PHS received the ball in the following possession and drove it 73 yards, before scoring on a two-yard touchdown run by Brandis Evans to take the lead at 14-13 with four minutes remaining in the first half.
Evans’ touchdown run was set up by a 38-yard pass from Curtis to White, who was pushed out of bounds after catching the ball near the goalline.
Pittsburg kicked the ball off to the Wildcats after Neef converted the extra point and recovered a fumble on the third play of the Wildcats’ drive, taking over at the Harrisonville 44-yard line.
With under a minute remaining in the first half, Curtis found White again in the endzone on a 29-yard pass to increase the Purple Dragons’ lead to 21-13.
An interception by Chase Johnson halfway through the third quarter gave Pittsburg the ball on the 50 yard-line, which set up an 11-play touchdown drive to increase the lead to 27-13.
The drive was highlighted by a 23-yard pass from Curtis to White and was capped off by a six-yard touchdown reception by Jhalani Long.
After failing to move the chains in the following possession, Harrisonville pinned the ball on the PHS one-yard line on a punt with under a minute remaining the in the third quarter.
The Purple Dragons began putting the final touches on the win by going 84 yards in 17 plays while chewing up nearly five minutes of game time, before ending the drive with a 25-yard field goal by Neef to push the lead to 30-13.
Harrisonville moved the sticks once in the next possession, but was forced to punt it away in the second set of downs.
Pittsburg took over at its own 22-yard line, and sealed the victory with a 66-yard run by Brandis Evans followed by a three-yard touchdown run by Curtis to pad the lead to 37-13.
The Wildcats scored one more touchdown in their final possession, but it was too little, too late.
“Dylan and Chase provided the spark we needed,” Nickelson said. “Chase played amazing in both the running and passing game. We knew Dylan was good, but for him to have this type of game in his first varsity start was amazing. He made every big catch we needed him to make, and that opened up some lanes for our running backs.”
“A lot of the credit needs to go to our offensive line,” Nickelson said. “They were blitzing at least two, if not three, linebackers on those passing downs, but our offensive line and running backs were picking those up and giving us time. It starts with those big boys up front picking up blitz packages, and then we executed the plays.”
Pittsburg will host Chanute at 7 p.m. on Friday.
— Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamneer.