MANSFIELD- As the Holiday season approaches both the Graham Steers (14-1) and the Pittsburg Pirates (12-2) appeared to be in a giving mood. However, it was Graham who came away with the biggest haul capitalizing on one final Pittsburg mistake in a 27-20 Class 3A Division II State Semi-Final win at Newsome Stadium.
After giving away a 19-3 halftime lead Graham took advantage of a key Pittsburg special teams error with less than three minutes remaining and Cameron Bailey scored from two yards out to secure the win for the Steers. The special teams mistake for PHS came as they failed to gain a first down after stopping Graham on a 4th and 2 play holding a 20-19 edge. Pittsburg punter Saul Martinez saw the snap fly over his head setting up Graham at the Pittsburg 28 for the game winning drive.
In the first half things appeared to be going Graham's way as they opened up a big lead. After a Ted Burns fumble set up the Steers deep in Pittsburg territory, Graham jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a fourteen yard run by Bailey.
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Pittsburg answered with a score later in the quarter as Martinez who showed a strong led booted a 32 yard field goal to cut the Graham lead to 7-3. In the second quarter Pittsburg appeared to be poised to take the lead but a Mitch Manley fumble deep in Graham territory prevented the Pirates from taking the lead. Graham would respond with a long drive ending on a four yard run by Bailey to make it 13-3. Again, Pittsburg moved deep into Graham territory but a fumble by Pittsburg WR Andy Dube fighting for extra yards prevented a Pirates score.
Pittsburg trying to move the ball later in the half was stopped on a fourth down play and two plays later Case McCoy hit Spencer Sims for a 42 yard touchdown pass and a 19-3 Graham lead as the Steers missed two straight PATs. Pittsburg went on one final drive to end the half but the Pirates failed to come away with points as they ran out of time on the Graham one yard line.
The second half had a reversal of fortune as Pittsburg scored seventeen unanswered points buoyed by three critical Graham errors. The first mistake came as Pittsburg was punting to Graham still trailing 19-3. The Steers roughed the Pittsburg punter and kept the Pirates drive alive and they took advantage cutting the lead to 19-10 on a three yard run by Manley.
The second mistake for Graham took place on the ensuing drive as Chris Brown picked off McCoy setting the Pirates up in Graham territory for another score. Burns would take it in from seven yards out to make it 19-17. The ensuing kickoff was also fumbled by Graham but the Steers defense held firm and a key 4th and goal delay of game penalty from the one yard line forced Pittsburg to settle for a 23 yard field goal to take a 20-19 lead.
Both teams exchanged punts prior to Graham being stopped on fourth down and setting up the fateful botched punt for Pittsburg.
Graham plays in their first ever state championship game next Saturday against the winner of today's matchup between Carthage and LaGrange.