LONGVIEW - A crowd estimated at somewhere in the neighborhood of 11,000 was left in awe here at Lobo Stadium Friday night after watching an inspired Pine Tree team rally of 16 third-quarter points to overtake crosstown rival Longview, then hold back a last ditch Lobo comeback bid to post a 22-20 season-finale victory.
Trailing at halftime 14-6, the Pirates victimized Longview's defense on two third-quarter scoring drives and converted both two-point conversions to grab a lead they had to fight the rest of the way to keep.
The victory, which closed Pine Tree's best effort in 5A competition at 6-2-2, marked the first time in the five-year series with Longview that the Bucs had beaten the Lobos. The win also eliminated Longview from a playoff berth.
But it took several defensive gems late in the game by the Pirates to save the victory after Longview had driven 77 yard sin 17 plays to close to within a two-point conversion of knotting the score.
On the conversion attempt, defensive tackle Kyle Morris slipped a block and tackled Lobo tailback Fred Hunter short of the goal line to retain the margin of victory with 6:21 left in the game.
The outcome was far from being sealed for the Pirates, however, as Longview regained possession two minutes later and utilized the airways to drive the ball into Pine Tree territory.
On a fourth-and-three with 1:27 showing, Hunter tried to go over the top and was met head on by defensive tackle Mark Nuss short of a first down seemingly taking the last breath away from the Lobos.
But the Pirates were unable to run out the clock and turned the ball over on downs with 21 seconds still remaining.
The Lobos called the right number on first down as wide receiver James Cashell raced past the Pine Tree secondary and was all alone at the 10 awaiting quarterback Henry Shaw's pass. But by the time the ball was delivered, safety Mike Kirkindoll had recovered and broke up the play. With eight seconds showing, Shaw handed the ball off to wingback Donnie Centers who rolled to his right and found Stevie Crain behind the Buc deep backs for a 40-yard reception down to the 9.
With no timeouts left, the Lobos went to a hurry-up field goal attempt with four seconds remaining and junior Steve Blaschke, who had turned the trick twice already this year with last-ditch kicking heroics to pull out wins, got off a 26-yard attempt that slid off to the left, giving Pine Tree the win.
From the start, there was little doubt this was going to be a dogfight as both teams put on a show unparalleled in any of the last four meetings. Even Longview's last minute 13-7 victory over the Pirates last year could not compare with this showdown.
The Bucs got the first break of the game on Jeff Hays' pass interception at the Lobo 38 on Longview's first play of the game. Pine Tree drove down to the 24, lost 10 on a bad pitchout and made up 14 on third and 17 to set up a 37-yard field goal attempt by Wayne Rowlett. Centers came across from the far side, however, and blocked the kick to thwart the threat.
Longview then used Hunter solely to churn out 67 yards in seven plays, including gains of 14, 24 and the final 11 yards, to take a 7-0 lead with 3:20 to go in the first quarter.
Pine Tree stormed back with an impressive drive on its next possession with tailback Delbert Flournoy carrying the ball seven times for 38 yards in the 5-yard drive before quarterback Terry Pirtle faked a handoff up the middle on fourth-and-one and carried it over himself from 12 yards out.
Pine Tree tied the game midway through the third quarter on a 56-yard drive that used up only 5 plays as Dana Hawkins exploded for 16 yards on the first play, was followed by a 22-yard pickup by Flournoy on the next play and later a 17-yard pass from Pirtle to Freddy Stahl to set up Flournoy's 2-yard touchdown blast. Pirtle then hit Bob Medonis on the two-point conversion to make it a new game at 14-14.
The Bucs then gained the lead for the first time in the game and for the first time ever against Longview as Pirtle sparked a 56-yard scoring driving, eating up the final 23 on one run.