In a battle that many anticipated might swing the balance of the Bay Valley Athletic League football landscape, the Freedom High football team outlasted host Pittsburg 49-48 on Friday.
A blocked PAT kick by Darrell Daniels with 3:30 left in the game proved the difference.
"I just went all out and dove and the ball hit my helmet," said Daniels, who had 143 yards from scrimmage and scored twice.
Pittsburg would get the ball back with 1:21 remaining and no timeouts, but an interception by Christian Montion sealed the win with 30 seconds to go.
It was a see-saw battle the entire game with both teams holding 14-point leads at one point. The Pirates (4-3, 1-1 BVAL) built a 42-28 second-half lead behind a rushing attack that gained over 360 yards and produced all seven of their touchdowns. Harris Ross lead the ground attack with 169 yards on 14 carries.
"We bent but didn't break," Freedom coach Kevin Hartwig said of his defense. "Well, we broke, but mended things back together in time to make a play at the end."
Freedom quarterback Dante Mayes broke the 42-42 tie with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Daniels with 7:28 left in the game. It was his fourth scoring pass of the night. The first three went to running back Joe Mixon, who also rushed for a score and threw for one out of the wildcat formation.
"It was a great game," Pittsburg coach Victor Galli said. "It's a big win for Freedom. They're a good football team. Disappointed for my guys though. They played hard tonight."
Neither team wasted anytime displaying its offensive prowess.
Despite Mayes -- the Falcons' regular starting quarterback -- beginning the game on the sidelines, Freedom (5-2, 2-0) took the opening possession and scored on a 38-yard end-around run by receiver Daniels after just six plays.
Pittsburg scored roughly three minutes later after a Daniels fumble set the Pirates up on the Freedom 33. Pittsburg scored on four plays, punching it in on a 10-yard run by Ross.
Mayes entered the game for the first time on the Falcons' third possession and promptly led two scoring drives with touchdown passes of 14 and 9 yards to Mixon. The latter put Freedom up 21-7 with 2:35 left in the first quarter.
The Pirates three-headed running attack helped Pittsburg pull even as Crajon Menefee scored on runs of 3 and 2 yards to tie the game at 21-21 midway through the second quarter. Menefee, Love and Jamal Lockett combined for 164 yards on 26 first-half carries.
The teams traded scores one more time in the final three minutes of the half. Mixon threw a 77-yard scoring pass to Nenwon Gbilia and Menefee rushed for another 3-yard touchdown.
Freedom 49, Pittsburg 48
Freedom 21 7 7 14-- 49
Pittsburg 14 14 14 6-- 48
F -- Daniels 38 run (kick blocked)
P -- Ross 10 run (Saldana kick)
F -- Mixon 14 pass from Mayes (Mayes run)
F -- Mixon 9 pass from Mayes (Gbilia kick)
P -- Menefee 3 run (Saldana kick)
P -- Menefee 2 run (Saldana kick)
F -- Gbilia 77 pass from Mixon (Gbilia kick)
P -- Menefee 3 run (Saldana kick)
P -- Lockett 40 run (Saldana kick)
P -- Ross 61 run (Saldana kick)
F -- Mixon 3 run (Gbilia kick)
F -- Mixon 42 pass from Mayes (Gbilia kick)
F -- Daniels 14 pass from Mayes (Gbilia kick)
P -- Menefee 28 run (kick blocked)
Rushing: F -- Mixon 16-34, Daniels 4-34, Mayes 7-21, Zanders 3-19, Wargo 1-5, Jackson 1-4. Totals 32-115. P --Ross 14-169, Lockett 21-110, Menefee 13-82, Renteria 2-5, Huey 1-(-1). Totals 51-365.
Passing: F -- Mayes 14-29-0 241, Wargo 2-3-0 43, Mixon 1-1-0 77. Totals 17-33-0 361. P -- Renteria 5-8-2 67.
Receiving: F -- Daniels 6-109, Mixon 5-79, Gbilia 2-112, Saude 2-40, Young 1-17, Garcia 1-8. P -- Crawford 2-24, Menefee 1-23, Alexander 1-14, Benajamin 1-6.
Fumbles/lost: Freedom 1/1, Pittsburg 3/1.
Records: Freedom 5-2, 2-0 BVAL; Pittsburg 4-3, 1-1.