If the Bay Valley Athletic League wants to extrapolate one key detail from Friday's game between host Freedom High and Pittsburg, it's this:
The title most definitely still runs through Pittsburg.
The Pirates were the more physical team all night long, muscling their way to a convincing 35-14 win over the Falcons in both teams' league opener.
"I think we wore them down a little bit," Pittsburg coach Victor Galli said. "We were going to commit to the run and we were going to be physical, and I thought (quarterback) Malik (Watson) played a great game tonight."
Watson was indeed good, and he didn't need to put up spectacular numbers to do it. That's because the Pirates rushed for 330 yards as a team, led by Fe'ao Vunipola's 157.
And, when the Pirates needed it, Watson gave them a big play. With Pittsburg trying to take momentum into halftime, Watson unleashed a laser to the front corner of the end zone, and Tyelor Mapp made the catch for an 8-yard score. That gave Pittsburg (4-2) a 21-7 lead at the break.
"Last game really got to me. I wasn't concentrating, I wasn't focused," said Watson, who struggled in a loss to Granite Bay two weeks ago but finished with 126 passing yards Friday. "I focused, I relaxed. I just played to the best of my abilities to try to help this team win."
Freedom (5-1) never got its offense going, mostly because Pittsburg stuffed the run game. Sophomore Joe Mixon could never break through, and with the Falcons forced to mostly pass, the Pirates limited Freedom to just 111 yards of total offense.
"We tried to run the ball and we couldn't go anywhere," Freedom coach Kevin Hartwig said. "At that point, I didn't want to waste any time and tried to get our pass game going, because we had better matchups that way."
Mister Cotton rushed for 86 yards and found the end zone twice for Pittsburg, scoring on runs of 1 and 4 yards.
Darrell Daniels provided the home crowd with a first-half jolt, returning a kickoff 91 yards for Freedom's first touchdown.