The Pearl River Pirates overcame turnovers and penalties to win at Gorton, 8-6, in a hard-fought football season opener for both squads.
“This is a game that no one wants to win,” bellowed Pearl River Head Coach Jeff Michael after his team was slapped with back-to-back false start penalties in the fourth quarter.
Michael was referring to the sloppy nature of Saturday’s game. Pearl River put the ball on the ground four times and Gorton was there to scoop it up each time. A fourth quarter interception didn’t help the Pirates’ cause either.
“This has been sloppy,” said Michael as he walked his team into the shade at the half. “Right now we are our own worst enemy. We moved the ball into the red zone but with fumbles and bad snaps, we can’t get out of our own way right now.”
Despite the usually-fatal turnovers, Pearl River was still the better team on the field. Pearl River’s offense didn’t score a point on the day, but neither did Gorton’s.
Early in the second quarter, after a successful drive down field, Pearl River quarterback John Brebbia did his best to recover a wayward snap, but he was hit and the ball was up for grabs. The ball was snatched mid air by Thomas Watson and taken 85 yards for a touchdown. After a failed conversion attempt, Pearl River trailed 6-0.
“There is some stuff we need to work on,” said Michael. “We need to work on finishing. We moved the ball well all game but that was our problem all day. We need to finish.”
Again, Pearl River drove down field and again they turned the ball over inside the opponent’s 30-yard line. Gorton had the ball in the lead with three minutes to go in the first half. Gorton was looking to extend their lead before the half and seize control of the game. The Pirates had other ideas.
The Pirates defense clamped down and forced Gorton to punt without moving the chains. The Gorton long snapper sailed the ball well over the head of punter Thomas Watson and Pearl River’s Pat Burke fell on the ball for a touchdown just as it crossed the goal line. Before Gorton had time to think, the Pirates ran a tricky screen pass to running back Connor Madigan who scored the two-point conversion.
“We stack five linemen and myself off to the left,” said Madigan. “If the team doesn’t adjust and get men out there it’s a throw to me and two-point conversion.”
Pearl River led 8-6 at the half.
The second half was completely dominated by defense. Neither team scored a point and the game was played mainly between the 40-yard lines.
“I know we are going to fine tune things offensively over the coming weeks,” said Pearl River’s Eric Corcoran. “We are going to get worked hard but we are going to come out better and start putting some points up.”
Gorton didn’t really threaten to score until the final moments of the game. A huge defensive pass interference call went against Pearl River and gave Gorton the ball on inside Pearl River’s 30 yard line with 1.3 seconds left on the clock.
The Pirates’ defense quickly got pressure on Gorton quarterback Tyrone Bannister and forced him to throw a pass that was easily knocked down by Joshua Lipane. Pearl River held on for a 2-point victory.
“We just made too many mistakes,” said Gorton Head Coach Dan DeMatteo “We had multiple opportunities to win the game. We just didn’t do it. Hats off to that Pearl River defense. I’m proud of the boys. The bullets are there. We just need to get them lined up.”
It was anything but pretty, but the Pirates did what they set out to do in their 2011 season opener. They won the game.
“We put our selves in bad spots more than I care to imagine in game one, but I’m happy with how we responded," Michael said. "We held tough. We need to get our act together a little bit going forward but I think we will be alright.”
Pearl River will play Riverside next Saturday, Sept 17, at 1:30 p.m. in its home opener.