Pittsburg Pirates (3-0)

vs.

Atlanta Rabbits (2-1)

7:30 p.m. Friday

Rabbit Stadium, Atlanta

Coaches
  • Pittsburg: Brad Baca
  • Atlanta: Matt McClure

 

Last week
  • Pittsburg: def. New Boston, 34-0
  • Atlanta: def. Daingerfield, 48-21

 

Next week
  • Pittsburg: at Mount Vernon, Sept. 25
  • Atlanta: at Liberty-Eylau, Sept. 25

 

Playmakers

Pittsburg

  • QB Brian Baca, Sr., 5-10, 180 (36 of 54, 743 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT; 17 carries, 127 yards, 5 TDs)
  • LB Fre'Zarian Harrison, Sr., 6-0, 220
  • RB Tray Walker, Sr., 5-5, 160 (53 carries, 278 yards, 4 TDs)
  • WR Damien Porter, Sr., 5-10, 150 (14 catches, 336 yards, 3 TDs; 3 carries, 27 yards)
  • WR Dejour Dowell, Jr., 6-1, 185 (11 catches, 186 yards, 2 TDs)
  • DL E.J. Hill, Jr., 6-0, 255
  • RB/LB Hugo Fluellen, Sr., 5-10, 160 (8 carries, 133 yards, 2 TDs)

 

Atlanta

  • DL Keyuntea Kinney, Sr., 5-10, 240
  • DE/LB Tristan Allen, Jr., 6-3, 210
  • ATH Jeremy Smith, Sr., 5-11, 160
  • RB Tyrell Phillips, Sr., 5-8, 175
  • WR D'Corey Larry, Sr., 5-11, 170
  • OL Tanner Duke, Sr., 6-1, 170
  • DB Layton Henson, Jr.
  • HB Cade Coulter, Sr., 5-11, 170

 

Just the facts
  • This is the 33rd meeting between Pittsburg and Atlanta in a series that dates back to 1930. Atlanta leads the all-time series, 21-10-1.
  • Pittsburg and Atlanta have met in nine consecutive seasons, with Atlanta going 5-4 during that span.
  • Pittsburg is 3-0 for the first time since 2011.
  • The Pirates were minus-79 against Pleasant Grove, Gladewater, and New Boston in three losses to begin the 2014 season. They are plus-63 against those same teams this year.
  • Pittsburg comes into Friday's game averaging 39.3 points and 498.3 yards per game -- 250.6 rushing and 247.7 passing.
  • Atlanta is 31-21 under fifth-year head coach Matt McClure, but the Rabbits have won 13 of their last 16 games.
  • The average score of the Rabbits' last three wins over Pittsburg is 48-18.
  • Atlanta's only two 2014 losses came against regional semifinalist Gladewater during district play, and 4A Division II state champion Gilmer in the quarterfinals.

 

Pittsburg WR Tray Walker. (Rob Graham. ETSN.fm)

Key matchup: Pittsburg offensive line vs. Atlanta defensive front. While Pittsburg has gotten contributions from several players during its 3-0 start to the season, the biggest difference this season has been new quarterback Brian Baca, who along with his father and defensive coordinator, moved from Cleburne after Brian's brother, Brad, got the head coaching job last spring. Brian Baca has been about as sharp as could be through the first three games of the season, completing 67 percent of his passes. Add to that a yards-per-completion average of 20.6 and the fact that one out of every six completions has been a touchdown, and it's pretty clear the Pirates' new signal-caller has his handprints all over Pittsburg's one-year turnaround.

In addition to the Pirates' passing prowess thus far, Pittsburg has also shown the ability to run the ball effectively. Using a combination of Baca, Tray Walker, Elijah Boyd and Hugo Fluellen, Pittsburg comes in averaging a healthy 250 rushing yards per game. It's uncertain which facet of the offense has been the team's catalyst, but Pittsburg did not have this kind of balance all the way through the 2014 season.

Pittsburg QB Brian Baca. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

The big story of Atlanta's run to last year's state quarterfinals was the play of dual-threat quarterback Chase Musgrove, who was just as good with his legs as he was making plays with his arm downfield. Since the graduation of Musgrove and 1,000-yard back DeQuan Allen and a couple other impact players on the offensive side of the ball, the Rabbits' 2015 identity early on has involved an aggressive and physical defensive front. With standouts like Keyuntea Kinney and his strength on the line, and Tristan Allen's playmaking ability on the edge, opposing offenses have had their fair share of struggles this season.

Don't be surprised if: Friday's meeting is more closely-contested that last year's 55-13 Atlanta win. As Pittsburg has demonstrated by its surprising 3-0 start, it is indeed a brand-new season. The Pirates turned a 63-point loss to Gladewater into a 49-36 win two weeks ago, and recorded a 34-0 shutout of New Boston last week after losing to the Lions 35-20 a season ago. Whatever first-year head coach Brad Baca is doing has worked wonders through three games, and there's no reason to think Pittsburg's steady improvement won't continue this week.

Pittsburg quarterback Brian Baca has passed every challenge that's been put in front of him so far, but he could be in store for biggest test to date against an experienced Atlanta defense that won't make life easy for most opponents in 2015. Coach Baca's game plans as offensive coordinator at Chapel Hill the previous three seasons centered on getting his team's running game established early, and then taking shots to the middle and down the sideline on deep passing routes. If the Pirates have early success on the ground, it could once again be a good night for Pittsburg.