Taylor Road may divide the two schools, but Pioneer and Veterans Memorial had something in common Friday night — they both fielded freshmen at quarterback.
The Patriots went home the 21-14 winner in the District 31-5A contest when quarterback Landry Gilpin plunged across the goal line with only 16 seconds to play in the game. During his first start, Gilpin sometimes looked like a freshman, but stayed steady in his first start. Pioneer starter Alejandro Ramirez went down with an injury, and freshman Jacob Rosales stepped in and performed well.
The Diamondbacks opened the scoring with a 27-yard run by Brandon Casas with a little over a minute remaining in the first quarter. The two teams swapped fumbles and interceptions for much of the second quarter until the Patriots tied it with a long punt return by Bobby Tovar with 2:05 left in the half. But, on the ensuing kick-off, Casas started out on his own 15-yard line and rambled the distance to take the Diamondbacks into the locker room up 14-7.
“We moved the chains a few times in the first half,” Patriot head coach David Gilpin said, “but we just couldn’t finish it. But we go into the half thinking they’ve given us everything they have. We were only a touchdown behind, and it was ours to win.”
Penalties were tough on both teams, not only in yards, but in scores that were called back. Tovar’s long run for the Patriots was called back for a block in the back while Pioneer had one called back on the first play from scrimmage in the fourth quarter for holding. With no scoring in the third quarter, but tied at 14-14 on Gilpin’s run from the two-yard line with only 1:41 left on the clock, most fans saw overtime ahead.
After the kick off, the Patriot defense swarmed, forcing Pioneer to punt from deep in their own territory. That’s when senior Ricky Diaz made the key play of the game by blocking the Diamondback punt and putting the ball on the twenty six yard line. From there, Landry Gilpin scored with only 16 seconds on the clock.
Proud of the way his entire team won the victory, Coach Gilpin praised all of them for “rallying around the young guy,” referring to his freshman son who knelt in the post-game huddle with a stunned and tear streaked face.
The Patriots are now 2-1 in district play, and the Diamondbacks 2-2.