The Pittsburg High School football team has been making big plays all season and came up with several of them on Friday night, upending the defending Class 5A football state champion and top-ranked Blue Valley Tigers, 45-35.

The Pittsburg High School football team has been making big plays all season and came up with several of them on Friday night, upending the defending Class 5A football state champion and top-ranked Blue Valley Tigers, 45-35.

For example, Blue Valley had just made it a 38-28 game with 2:45 remaining and Blue Valley kicker Austin Johnson squibbed an onside kick at the Pittsburg hands unit. Pittsburg senior running back Marcus Striplin not only fielded it cleanly at the Pittsburg 48-yard line, but made Johnson miss with a spin move and broke a return wide open for a 52-yard touchdown, giving Pittsburg a 45-28 lead.

Several players came up with big plays on Friday, some beyond the box score.

On two fourth down plays, senior quarterback Joe Wimmer connected with senior wide receiver Jornell Fondren for a first down on the first play and a touchdown on the second play.
On the first one, Fondren caught a 10-yard pass, which set up a Striplin 17-yard touchdown run. On the second one, late in the fourth quarter and with a 31-21 lead, Fondren ran a fade route in the end zone and Wimmer found him for a 18-yard touchdown and a 38-21 lead.
Fondren ended with six catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns, as Pittsburg (6-2 overall) continues to show progression in the passing game after passing for a single yard in the season opener against Coffeyville.

Junior running back Anthony McNeely gained over 100 yards on the evening, with a 7-yard touchdown run and a 68-yard run among his highlights.

On special teams, freshman kicker Nick Powers made six extra points and kicked a 23-yard field goal. Junior punter and holder Spencer Bernhardt helped win the battle of field position with his rugby-style punting and fielded a bad snap and got it down for Powers on the field goal. Junior wide receiver and defensive back Jimmy Ritz handled two Blue Valley onside kicks.

Striplin led Pittsburg with three scoring plays — a 5-yard run, a 17-yard run and his clutch 52-yard kickoff return.

Blue Valley quarterback Kyle Zimmerman threw for three touchdowns and Ryan McNerlin returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown after Striplin had given Pittsburg a 31-14 lead with his 17-yard TD.

This Pittsburg win makes for an interesting Class 5A, District 4 picture with a number of scenarios possible — Pittsburg and Blue Valley now each have 1-1 district records and Gardner-Edgerton improved to 2-0 in district with a 27-18 win over St. Thomas Aquinas. Pittsburg hosts 0-2 St. Thomas Aquinas and Blue Valley hosts Gardner-Edgerton next Friday.