The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

High School Sports

October 11, 2012

Pittsburg starts district play with Blue Valley

Film sessions ran a little longer this week for Pittsburg High School’s football team.

It couldn’t be helped because there were more plays than normal.

The Purple Dragons outscored Coffeyville 67-53 last Friday, and the 120 combined points were the most ever in a Southeast Kansas League game. Coffeyville also was part of the former record set when the Golden Tornado beat Labette County 63-55 two years ago.

“If you liked offense and no good tackling, it was definitely the game to watch,” Pittsburg coach Tom Nickelson said. “It was very frustrating for the defensive guys.

“Bottom line, we found a way to win. We better find a way to play defense. It didn’t feel like a win in the locker room because we didn’t play well on one side of the ball.”

The Dragons, after finishing SEK play with a 5-1 record, now enter the “Blue Valley’’ portion of their schedule. The Dragons entertain Blue Valley West tonight, then Blue Valley and Blue Valley Southwest on the road in the next two weeks for Class 5A District 4 laurels.

All three Blue Valley schools are 4-2 coming into district play.

“All three are outstanding,” Nickelson said. “The Blue Valley West coaching staff has been in place and had good stability. They won a 6A state championship not too long ago. They run a great system.”

Moving into district, the Dragons must adjust to a faster game.

“The biggest change is the game is a little faster for four quarters,” Nickelson said. “They will have 100-plus kids on their team, and most of their kids play one way. Basically when you’re two-platooning, if all a kid has done for four years is play right guard, you’re going to end up with a pretty dang good right guard. They can play harder and stay fresher longer.

“We do have some guys who have to play two ways. We try to condition the heck out of them, and that starts all the way back in May. We tell them to be in tremendous shape for the last three games.”

Last week’s fireworks included 1,034 yards of offense — 537 for the Dragons and 497 for Coffeyville.

Dragons quarterback Spencer Bernhardt completed 10 of 12 passes for 239 yards, and Zack Woods caught four passes for 150 yards. Bernhardt also gained 104 yards on 27 carries.

“Spencer had a great night,” Nickelson said. “They played straight man on us all night long, and if our receivers ran good routes and our offensive line gave us time, we thought we could throw on them a little bit. Our offensive line played excellent, and Spencer put the ball where it needed to be.

“Spencer also checked us out of plays and put us in a better one. His best attribute is his mind. He sees defenses real well ... he’s very intelligent. He’s been raised in a football family (father Ben is on the PHS staff and grandfather Larry “Legend” Garman won 255 games in 34 years as the Dragons’ coach), and it’s definitely sunk in.”

Sophomore running back Alex Barnes gained 143 yards last week, pushing his season total to 822 yards. He’s scored 17 touchdowns and two 2-point conversions.

“Alex has things you can’t coach,” Nickelson said. “He has tremendous vision and balance, natural moves. ... When he gets in the open field, he knows what to do. He’s going to be a very special player for us.”

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