PRINCETON -- Pittsburg lost the turnover battle. The team also committed 16 penalties for 174 yards.

But the Pirates won Thursday's potentially season-changing District 7-4A Division I game against Princeton, 49-39, at Jackie Hendrix Stadium. And now a second-place finish in the league looks like a sure thing.

Winning the district championship isn't out of the question, either.

All Pittsburg did was score in the second half. Running back Tray Walker capped all four of the Pirates' full possessions after the break with touchdowns on the way to a 191-yard night on the ground.

"None of our goals are gone," Pirates head coach Brad Baca said. "A Liberty-Eylau loss and us winning out, who knows what can happen? We're just hoping for that. We're going to play Quinlan Ford next week, we'll get a good plan for them and we'll try to finish out strong."

Pittsburg head coach Brad Baca has a conversation with the head official about a roughing the punter penalty on 4th-and-10 from the Princeton 45-yard line. The ruling helped Princeton extend its drive for a 7-0 lead. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Technically, Pittsburg (8-1, 3-1) tied Princeton (7-2, 3-1) in the standings with the head-to-head win and one regular season game remaining for each respective team. Both programs trail Liberty-Eylau -- which extended its district record to 4-0 Thursday via a victory against Paris North Lamar -- by a game in the standings.

If the playoffs began today, however, the Pirates would be rewarded the second place spot by nature of defeating Princeton. Furthermore, Princeton has to square off with Liberty-Eylau in Texarkana next week while Pittsburg takes on a team that has lost all four of its district games by a combined score of 180-39.

The result would have surprised the Princeton faithful after one quarter of play. Princeton led, 18-7, in large part due to Pittsburg's fumble on the second snap of the game, a roughing the punter penalty and an interception in the first 12 minutes.

But the Pirates held a 21-18 advantage at the break despite committing 11 penalties for 120 yards. Princeton committed one infraction for 15 yards through the half.

Dejour Dowell got the gears turning in the second quarter with a 17-yard touchdown catch. Fre'zarian Harrison dived in 10 seconds before halftime for the lead.

Walker took over from there. Of his 191 yards, he earned 124 yards in the second half and produced touchdown runs of 18 yards, 9 yards, 33 yards and 1 yard.

"I've got to thank the O-line and then giving praise to God for Him letting me come back," Walker said. "I missed two seasons and I'm getting to play my senior year. My freshman year, I started a little at running back. My sophomore year, I got hurt before our first game. Then, going into my junior, year I got hurt in the first game. I've just been coming back and getting with it."

The back now has 1,288 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in his nine games played.

Pittsburg quarterback Brian Baca rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries to help set up Tray Walker's four touchdowns. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Senior quarterback Brian Baca, head coach Brad Baca's little brother, helped tee Walker up with seven carries for 92 yards after halftime. Pittsburg threw twice in the final 24 minutes.

Brian Baca recorded 146 rushing yards in total, including a 7-yard rollout touchdown in the first quarter. He fell just a bit short of matching his 18 of 21 passing for 176 yards and a touchdown with an interception.

Harrison, primarily a linebacker and who entered the game with an East Texas-best 29 tackles for loss, led a defense that managed to hold Princeton to two missed long-range field goals, a successful field goal, a turnover on downs and one punt. That was enough to circumvent the two Pittsburg turnovers, one stalled drive and the 16 flags.

"We fought the adversity, came out here and got a team win," Brian Baca said. "That's why I love my teammates so much. Every time I looked around on the sidelines, everyone was ready to go. My running back, my receivers and my offensive line were ready to go. We love the defense and think they're an awesome defense. We're going to help them as much as we can. If they need us to score again, we'll score again."

Princeton countered with an excellent night from quarterback Colt Collins. He had to be good because a key running back averaging 164 yards per game was held to 49 yards.

Collins played a hand in all five touchdowns Princeton scored. He ran in three scores himself.

Pirates linebacker Fre'zarian Harrison (28) holds Princeton running back George Flores (22) to a 3-yard gain. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Stride-for-stride against Pittsburg's offense though, Princeton needed even more. The game began unraveling for it in the second quarter, and back-to-back sacks from Harrison on third and fourth down for a total of 20 yards lost set up Walker to give the Pirates a two-possession lead, 28-18, midway through the third quarter.

Collins closed the gap to three points on three different occasions through the next 12 minutes. Walker, and Brian Baca, always had the answer the other way.

Trailing 49-39 with less than three minutes to play, Princeton went 45 yards in two plays to the Pittsburg 24-yard line. Collins was pressured into two incomplete passes sandwiched around a completion for no gain.

Princeton missed a 41-yard field goal and then burned its second and third timeouts on two Walker runs for seven yards to set up third-and-3 at the Princeton 33-yard line.

Brian Baca ran for seven yards on the final play of the game.

"The thing we always talk with the kids about is adversity comes in every game," Brad Baca said. "We had an unreal amount of penalties and we'll see on the film what we did wrong. But it's hard for kids to stay the course in the midst of that. And I'm proud of them."

With four touchdowns Thursday, Tray Walker now has 13 touchdowns in addition to more than 1,200 rushing through nine games. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Pittsburg 49, Princeton 39
District 7-4A Division I
Jackie Hendrix Stadium, Princeton

Pittsburg            7      14     7     21    --    49
Princeton         18        0     7     14    --    39

First Quarter
PRI--Colt Collins 27 run (Julio Vasquez kick), 7:16
PIT--Brian Baca 7 run (Alex Rodriguez kick), 5:12
PRI--Collins 24 run (Danny Boyles pass from Kai Brinkerhoff), 3:25
PRI--Vasquez 26 field goal, :07
Second Quarter
PIT--Dejour Dowell 17 pass from Baca (Rodriguez kick), 7:49
PIT--Fre'zarian Harrison 1 run (Rodriguez kick), :10
Third Quarter
PIT--Tray Walker 18 run (Rodriguez kick), 6:44
PRI--Sadavion Matthews 24 pass from Collins (Vasquez kick), 1:04
Fourth Quarter
PIT--Walker 9 run (Rodriguez kick), 11:27
PRI--Collins 41 run (Vasquez kick), 11:04
PIT--Walker 33 run (Rodriguez kick), 9:56
PRI--Collins 2 run (Vasquez kick), 6:35
PIT--Walker 1 run (Rodriguez kick), 2:48

 

                                                    PIT              PRI
First Downs                                  28                24
Total Yards                                  555              421
Rushes-Yards                         42-379            39-176
Passing Yards                             176                245
Comp.-Att.-Int.                       18-21-1--176   27-36-0--245
Punts-Avg.                                 1-33             1-26
Fumbles-Lost                              1-1               2-0
Penalties-Yards                          16-174         7-61

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING--Pittsburg, Tray Walker 24-191, Brian Baca 13-146, Hugo Fluellen 1-32, Fre'Zarian Harrison 3-9, Damien Porter 1-1. PrincetonColt Collin 17-117, George Flores 20-49, Kai Brinkerhoff 1-6, Regan Wilkins 1-4.
PASSING--Pittsburg, Baca 18-21-1--176. Princeton, Collins 27-36-0--245.
RECEIVING--Pittsburg, Damien Porter 8-68, Dejour Dowell 5-67, Walker 2-14, Deldric Shields 1-13, Shon Smith 1-7, Hugo Fluellen 1-7. Princeton, Sadavion Matthews 9-79, Kai Brinkerhoff 3-58, Brandon Talley 6-52, Flores 1-39, Daniel Hernandez 2-17.

Fre'zarian Harrison chases down Princeton quarterback Colt Collins for a 7-yard sack in the third quarter. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)