PITTSBURG -- With Pittsburg High clinging to a six-point lead in the latter stages of a North Coast Section Division I quarterfinal playoff game Friday, its defense forced a crucial goal-line turnover to preserve a 27-21 home win over Freedom.

On a first and goal from the Pirates' 7, running back Joe Mixon took a handoff and plowed toward the goal line. Several Pittsburg defenders met him at about the 2, including Sherod Thompson, who knocked the ball out. The ball was fumbled into the end zone, where Antonio Baldazo fell on it with 2:11 remaining.

Pittsburg ran out the clock and advanced to play the winner of Saturday's game between San Ramon Valley and California in the semifinals next Saturday.

Freedom High’s Joe Mixon (20) left, tries to get past the Pittsburg High defense in the second quarter of their North Coast Section playoff football
Freedom High's Joe Mixon (20) left, tries to get past the Pittsburg High defense in the second quarter of their North Coast Section playoff football game in Pittsburg, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

Mixon, a five-star recruit (out of five) and one of the region's premier running backs, finished with 237 yards rushing and receiving and two touchdowns.

Pittsburg, which trailed 21-13 at halftime, received a lift from the return of its premier running back, Harris Ross. Though Pittsburg coach Victor Galli said Ross' leg was about 80 to 90 percent, Ross ran for 184 yards on 17 carries and had three touchdowns.

"He played great, and gave us a real spark," Galli said.

Pittsburg took the lead for good late in the third quarter on a nine-play, 99-yard drive that was capped by an 18-yard touchdown run by Jaylyn Morgan.


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The Pirates had a chance to take a two-possession lead with 8:29 left in the fourth quarter after an interception but missed a 32-yard field goal attempt Freedom took over at the 20 on its final possession.

Pittsburg 27, Freedom 21

Pittsburg          7          6          14          0--          27

Freedom          14          7          0          0--          21

F -- Mixon 39 pass from Sweeney (Gonzalez kick)

P -- Ross 38 run (Iniguez kick)

F -- Mixon 47 run (Gonzalez kick)

P -- Ross 63 run (kick failed)

F -- Sweeney 7 run (Gonzalez kick)

P -- Ross 11 run (run failed)

P -- Morgan 18 run (Ross run)

Freedom High’s Isiah Johnson (4) right, tries to hold on to Pittsburg High’s Andre Grisby (13) in the second quarter of their North Coast
Freedom High's Isiah Johnson (4) right, tries to hold on to Pittsburg High's Andre Grisby (13) in the second quarter of their North Coast Section playoff football game in Pittsburg, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

Rushing: P -- Ross 17-184, Levias 4-54, Morgan 15-53. Totals 36-291. F -- Mixon 26-189, Sweeney 7-10, Thompson 1-4, Rivers 4-3. Totals 38-206. Passing: P -- Levias 5-8-0 86, Morgan 0-1-0 0. Totals 5-9-0 86. F -- Sweeney 13-19-1 142. Receiving: P -- Grigsby 2-43, Kirtman 1-36, Barber 2-7. Totals 5-86. F -- Garcia 4-54, Mixon 2-38, Allen 2-25, Simmons 1-13, Thompson 2-9, Sanders 2-3. Totals 13-142. Fumbles/lost: Pittsburg 2/0, Freedom 1/1. Records: P -- 10-2, F -- 6-6


Pittsburg High’s Harris Ross (22) left, gets past Freedom High’s Johnell Green (6) for a first down in the first quarter of their North Coast
Pittsburg High's Harris Ross (22) left, gets past Freedom High's Johnell Green (6) for a first down in the first quarter of their North Coast Section playoff football game in Pittsburg, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)