Back on track

Christoper Richards/Special to PrepsKC

By Matt Gerstner PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: October 10, 2015 - 12:54 AM

Heading into Week 6 and coming off a 52-0 loss, Piper head coach Chris Brindle’s team sat at just 1-4. That record, especially considering the Pirates’ success in recent years, was not sparkly.

But just two years ago, Piper headed into districts at 2-4 and ended up one play away from a state semifinal appearance. Friday night against Turner, they took a big step in repeating that run.

The Pirate running game carried the offense all night while the defense came up with a big stop late on their way to a 35-25 win against the Golden Bears. Sterling Owens rushed for over 200 yards and three touchdowns before exiting midway through the third quarter.

“It was a real battle. Our guys worked so hard. We really adjusted some things this week and our guys bought in to it,” Brindle said.

Linebacker and fullback Alex Bach, who had the go-ahead touchdown late in the game, stressed how big the win was as the Pirates head into the last three games of the season.

“It’s really important going into districts. It’s been a rough start, but now that we can be positive going into districts, it’s really good for our team,” he said.

The back-and-forth started early with Piper striking first with Owens doing most of the work on a 12-play drive, capping it off with an 11-yard touchdown run. He looked to do the same on the next drive but coughed it up at his own 43. One play later, Andre Jackson took it 43 yards and into the endzone to tie the game.

Owens quickly redeemed himself with a 49-yard touchdown run after a good kick return. Jackson called Owens with a 49-yard catch in double coverage to set up a 1-yard Michiah Frayer touchdown. The Golden Bears would get a defensive stop before a John Villegas field goal put Turner up 17-14 at the half.

Owens would once again lead the offense on a touchdown drive as he took it in from 11 yards out. A two-point conversion gave Piper the 22-17 advantage.

A great kick return and horsecollar penalty, however, gave Turner the ball at the Piper 27. Jordan Martin came on a reverse the next play and took it the distance. A two-point conversion of their own put the Golden Bears up three, and the hometown bench and crowd were fired up.

That’s when things got worse for Piper as Owens went down with a knee injury. The Pirates would punt it away, and Turner looked to put it away.

But with 2nd and goal from the one, a fumbled snap put the Golden Bears at their own 11. The Pirates stuffed Jackson and the next play, and a field goal attempt was wide right to keep the game at 25-22.

“Our defense made a great stop. We’ve had some injuries there, and guys have stepped in,” Brindle said. “And then we had another injury, and another guy has had to step in. Guys keep stepping up, and we’re really proud of them for that.”

Keelon Vann, Piper’s regular quarterback that missed last week with an illness and played at receiver for starter Jordan Goodpaster, came in and engineered the go-ahead drive, capped off by Bach’s 17-yard run with 3:26 left to give the Pirates the eventual win.

“We just changed our whole mindset this week and just started over,” Bach said. “The whole week we got a lot more serious and didn’t take anything off during practice. It turned out great for us.”

Turner would get the ball back at its own 45, but would turn it over on downs after a double reverse pass fell incomplete. JJ Letcher, who came in for Owens, sealed the deal with 62-yard touchdown run.

“JJ showed what he can do late in the game,” Brindle said of the backup tailback.

The win gives Piper huge momentum going into a district that seems to be wide open.

“You never know what’s going to happen. We have to stay healthy,” Brindle said. “Everybody is 0-0 at this point.”

Same goes for Turner, who heads into a district where its opponents have one loss combined.

“We have absolutely nothing to lose,” head coach Jeremy Millne said. “We definitely have the element of surprise on our side. We have our work cut out for us. But we’ll be up at 7:30 running, watching film and getting ready. If we can start games the right way, we’ll be alright.”