Pirates drive 90 yards late in the fourth quarter to knock off defending state champions in season opener
The untested Polson Pirates grew up in a hurry against the defending state champs.
Despite having to replace 16 starters from the past season, the Pirates put together a veteran-worthy drive late in the fourth quarter, marching nearly 90 yards down the field for a touchdown to spoil the Broncs’ home opener with a 21-16 victory.
“To be able to do that right now, with so many fresh faces, so early in the season, was a real confidence booster. Hopefully, we can build on that,” Polson coach Scott Wilson said of the winning drive, which was capped with a 6-yard TD run by fullback Jake Skelton with a little more than two minutes left on the clock.
The Pirates’ winning drive almost never got going. After receiving the ball near their own 10-yard line at about the halfway point of the quarter, the Pirates were facing a third-and-10, when quarterback Vince DiGiallonardo was forced out of the pocket, after buying some time he connected with his favorite target Kyle Bagnell for a first-down completion.
The Pirates converted two more third downs on the drive, including one on a 23-yard reception by Skelton on a pass that was behind him.
DiGiallonardo and Bagnell showed no rust from the offseason, with both having career nights. The veteran combo connected for two scores in the second quarter, a 60-yarder to tie the game at 7 and a 30-yarder to give them a 14-7 lead.
Bagnell snared 12 passes for a career-high 205 yards.
“He’s real competitive,” Wilson said of Bagnell. “He kept us rolling. He came up with some big catches for us.
DiGiallonardo completed 16 of 25 passes for a career-high 269 yards. He had two TDs and an interception. Wilson said the offensive line, which only has one returning starter, did a great job in giving DiGiallonardo some time and when they didn’t, DiGiallonardo did a great job scrambling. He was the Pirates’ leading rusher, finishing with 84 of their 136 yards on 18 carries. Skelton rushed for 49 yards on 12 carries.
After Skelton went in for the go-ahead score, it appeared that Pirate cornerback Kienan Kenniston sealed the game with an interception with less than two minutes to play, but they were unable to run out the clock and had to run out the back of the end zone for an intentional safety in the final seconds.
After giving up a touchdown in the first quarter, the Pirates’ defense, which had to replace three all-state linebackers, didn’t give up another score the rest of the way. The Broncs’ only other touchdown in the game came on a 95-yard kickoff return to start the second half.
With the victory, the Pirates avenged their season-opening loss to Frenchtown the past season, but Wilson said they still have a long ways to go to get to the level that the Broncs were playing at near the end of the past year.
“We can still improve, there is no doubt about it,” Wilson said.
The Pirates will host Corvallis Friday at 7. The Blue Devils have a good receiving core, and Wilson said that they will have to shut down all their weapons on the perimeter to get to 2-0.
Polson 21, Frenchtown 16
Polson 0 14 0 7–21
F.Town 7 0 7 2–16
F - Brad Nordahl 10 run
P - Kyle Bagnell 60 pass from Vince DiGiallonardo
P - Bagnell 30 pass from DiGiallonardo
F - Ben Metz 95 kickoff return
P - Jake Skelton 6 run
F - Safety