PITTSBURG — It was a statement win in Friday’s season opener for the Pittsburg Purple Dragons, as they dominated Labette County in route to an 43-8 victory at Hutchinson Field.
“It starts with our defense,” said Head Coach Tom Nickelson. “Our defensive staff did a great job in putting together a game plan, and the players did a great job of executing. We went out there and tried to take away what we believed they could do well, which is hard to do first game of the season with very little film.”
“We asked our kids to play physical on defense, and the offense did a great job of following their lead.” added Nickelson.
Brandis Evans got the ball rolling on the first offensive play of the season, rushing for a 42-yard touchdown.
“From the fullback spot, Brandis is vital to every play we run on offense. He’s either the mesh on the read, or he is blocking, but at the end of the day he is key to our running attack. On top of those responsibilities, he is as good of a running back as we have had here. Being 180 pounds, and to be as quick as he is, he is a load for any defense to try and contain.” said Nickelson.
Ty Roark extended the Pittsburg lead with a touchdown rush from 30 yards out.
The Purple Dragon defense held Labette County to -7 yards of total offense in the first quarter.
Caden Bressler’s 32-yard field goal gave Pittsburg a 17-0 lead heading into the second.
Joel Kafka picked off a Labette throw at Labette’s 45, and returned it 44 yards to set up a Evans one-yard scamper.
“We were running man coverage on the back side. On the previous drive before they ran the same formation and threw it to my side of the field. Using that information to my advantage, I read the play before the snap and knew where they wanted to go with the ball.”
Dylan White joined in on the fireworks late in the second, snagging a 36-yard touchdown pass from Roark, pushing the lead to 30-0 at halftime.
It didn’t take long for the Purple Dragons to add to the lead after the second half whistle. At the goaline, Roark mishandled the handoff, but picked up the ball and scampered in on a sneak up the teeth of the Labette defense to give them a 37-0 advantage.
Trent Brock gave Labette their biggest play of the game in the second half, returning the ensuring kickoff 45-yards.
Pittsburg’s Dylan Jordan stalled the Grizzlies momentum, picking up two sacks on the drive, leading to Pittsburg receiving the ball back on their 45.
“Our game plan was to blitz and bring pressure. We knew their QB likes to get out of the pocket and run, so we wanted to keep him bottled up inside. On plays that he did escape, I tried my best to take care of it.” said Jordan
Brett Freeman took care of the rest, rumbling for 33 yards down the sideline on his first carry of the drive. Freeman would punch it in from three yards out, elevating the lead to 43-0 late in the third quarter.
Labette scored their lone touchdown of the game on a Caleb Hentzen kick return.