Cats earn playoff spot, dismantle Panthers
By Richard Greene
The Pilot Point Bearcats are headed back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
The Bearcats clinched the playoff berth with a complete 50-2 dismantling of the Paradise Panthers Friday at Massey Stadium.
“It’s exciting. When we took over the program three years ago, we were still in 3A and took our lumps,” said Pilot Point coach Rob Best. “This junior and senior class took the challenge, and really worked hard to get back here. Football will go on beyond our open date, the last week of the season. I’m happy for the players and the coaches. They’ve worked really hard.”
Along with sealing the postseason bid, the Bearcats (6-2, 4-0) set up a District 5-2A Division I title showdown next week with the league’s other unbeaten team Whitesboro. Whitesboro took care of Bowie 43-7.
“We’ve been looking forward to it all year,” said Pilot Point defensive end Jonah Fritz about playing Whitesboro. “We know we have the ability to go out and play against them and get the district championship.”
Pilot Point turned in an impressive showing on both sides of the football. Offensively, the Bearcats rolled up 434 yards, including 257 on the ground. Defensively, Pilot Point was even more dominating, limiting Paradise to 142 yards and forcing five turnovers.
Paradise’s lone points came on a safety in the fourth quarter as Pilot Point snapped the ball out of the end zone on a punt.
“We were ready to go and came out and played like this defense can,” said Pilot Point defensive end Jonah Fritz.
Fritz pulled down one of the three interceptions of Paradise quarterback Dillon Meadows by the Bearcats.
The defensive end stepped in front of a pass at the 35-yard line and returned it for a touchdown. An illegal block behind the play wiped out Fritz’ return but Pilot Point scored seven plays later to take a 14-0 lead.
“Coach (Kurtis) Kloiber had me set up with the right key and had me in the right spot for the interception. It was kind of harsh to get in called back,” Fritz said.
Pilot Point six times turned away Paradise after it had crossed midfield, including twice inside the 10-yard line. Each time big plays by the Pilot Point defensive line ended the drive.
“We didn’t block well up front,” said Paradise coach Scott Broussard. “It was one of those nights when nothing seemed to go our way. They are fast and send people, and we didn’t do a good job picking them up.”
Pilot Point got a defensive score late in the game as Cody Beathard picked up a fumble and rumbled 65 yards for the touchdown.
The Pilot Point defense played with the lead from the second play of the game on. Pilot Point quarterback Travis Garrett called an audible at the line of scrimmage and threw a short pass to DaCoven Bailey. The sophomore cut his way through the Paradise defense for a 67-yard touchdown to give Pilot Point a 7-0 lead 1:02 into the game.
Garrett went on to complete all nine of his passes in the first half, including a second touchdown pass to Bailey. Garrett finished the night 10-for-11 for 177 yards. He added 78 yards rushing and touchdown runs of 15 and three yards.
“Travis played about as good mentally as physically,” Best said. “On the first touchdown, we had something else called and he read to another play. He was doing that most of night. He’s always had the physical skills. He’s really grown into the quarterback position.”
Bailey caught seven passes for 130 yards.
Senior Tristan Jurecka paced the Bearcats rushing attack with 144 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. He opened the second quarter by rumbling 49 yards and breaking several tackles put Pilot Point up 21-0.
“We were in position to make plays and didn’t,” said Paradise coach Scott Broussard. “I thought Pilot Point did a good job getting matchups. We were worried about their speed and athleticism all week. They did a good job of getting their kids in space.”