Analy 37, Pittsburg 21: Tigers slam highly ranked Pittsburg in opening win

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Pittsburg's Tyrell Lassair (32) is brought down by, from left, Analy's Jacob Hicks, Jaxon Cantu, Trent Ackerman, and Kieran Newell during a varsity football game between Analy High School and Pittsburg High School in Sebastopol, Calif., on August 30, 2013. (Photo by Alvin Jornada, for The Press Democrat)

Pittsburg’s Tyrell Lassair (32) is brought down by, from left, Analy’s Jacob Hicks, Jaxon Cantu, Trent Ackerman, and Kieran Newell during a varsity football game between Analy High School and Pittsburg High School in Sebastopol, Calif., on August 30, 2013. (Photo by Alvin Jornada, for The Press Democrat)

SEBASTOPOL — Riding a quick-hitting, big-play offense and sack-happy defense, Analy took down longtime Bay Area power Pittsburg in a high-scoring season opener.

Analy played with the precision and poise similar to last season’s record-setting Tigers squad in the 37-21 win at home. Analy never trailed and finished with a pair of scoring drives after Pittsburg narrowed the lead early in the fourth period.

Opening with a no-huddle offense, Analy scored on two of the Tigers’ first three possessions — a 33-yard pass from Jacob Royer to Kerr Johnson and a 41-yard Ja’Narrick James run.

Facing a powerful Pittsburg running game, Analy largely kept the Pirates in check. When not slowing runners, Analy was sacking the quarterback. The Tigers had five takedowns including two each by Isaac Kangas and Andrew Wollmer. Trent Ackerman was in the middle of many stops.

Pittsburg figured to provide Analy a major test as likely the toughest opponent on the Tigers’ schedule. A perennial North Coast Section Division 1 playoff team, Pittsburg competes in the always tough Bay Valley Athletic League. National Power De La Salle is an annual scrimmage and often playoff opponent.

In handling Pittsburg, the Tigers served notice that they are prepared to pick up where last season’s NCS Division 3 semifinalist left off in a one-loss campaign.

“That was a great start to say the least,” said James, who had 112 yards rushing and two scores. “At first this week we were saying we wanted to just stay with them. Then our captains stepped up and preached that we could win.”

The respect was mutual. Pittsburg coaches and players prepared for a tough test having scrimmaged Analy at the Marin Catholic summer camp.

“Analy’s got a good team. Looking at those guys on film and playing them, those guys are very well coached. It was going to be a challenge,” said Pittsburg coach Victor Galli.

A fast start and making the most of opportunities were the keys to Analy’s victory.

Taking advantage of Pittsburg penalties, Analy kept the game’s first drive alive. On another third-down play, Royer hit Johnson in stride on a slant and the speedy receiver had open field with defenders on their heels for the 33-yard score.

A Pittsburg three-and-out, including the first Tigers sack, bolstered Analy’s momentum.

On a short field late in the first quarter, Analy went with three pass plays to set up James, who eluded tacklers until he was taken down — in the end zone.

Stunned yet determined to play Pittsburg football, the Pirates didn’t panic and took advantage of a long kickoff return.

Staying with a run-first offense, Pittsburg went 37 yards in six plays to score, aided by a pair of Analy penalties. Quarterback Keith Walker outran defenders to the corner of the end zone from 5 yards out.

Anchoring the Pirates running was Nick Moore, who totaled 56 first-half yards before leaving with a shoulder injury.

The first of three fumbles Pittsburg lost led to Analy’s next score. Following a Royer-to-Johnson sideline strike covering 42 yards, James went in from 2 yards out.

Again the no-huddle offense tested Pittsburg’s defense.

“We’re conditioned enough that we can run that offense,” James said. “We have playmakers all over.”

Not to be outdone, Analy’s defense was equally quick and smart.

After pinning Pittsburg deep on the kickoff, Analy swarmed Pirates ball carriers. On third down, Kangas flew in and dragged down Walker for a sack and safety.

Proving there are two halves to a football game, Pittsburg came out playing seemingly harder and faster in the third quarter.

Less than four minutes later, Walker was diving for another touchdown. The drive was fueled by a pair of backs benched for the first half, DeVonte Tarrance and Harris Ross, one of the Bay Area’s top prospects.

Fumbles by both teams stymied drives. Then following a rare Analy punt the Pirates were back on the move.

Aided by a late-hit penalty, Pittsburg went 76 yards in 11 plays with Ross going in for the touchdown to narrow Analy’s lead to 2 points — the safety being the difference on the scoreboard.

“We’re pretty stout on the off line. We’ve got some good experience,” Galli said. “We’ve got some good ball carriers, but Ross is in a class by himself.”

Still, had Ross played the entire game the outcome likely would have been the same.

Analy proved as much by answering with a drive featuring a balance of pass and run plays. The lone Royer incompletion on the drive was the only play without positive yards. Royer threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns.

“Offensive balance is our strength. It starts with our line,” said Analy coach Dan Bourdon.

Defeating a big, physical, athletic Pittsburg team has Analy on track for what could be another memorable season.

“That was the biggest win for our program in quite awhile,” Bourdon said.

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.

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