When the season started, not many fans would recognize the name Jace Pitchford outside the city limits of Poteau.
But after leading the Pirates to 11 wins and the 4A semifinals, Pitchford has to be a favorite for the player of the year in the classification.
Though he’s had his ups and downs this season, his presence in the huddle is a comforting sight for his teammates.
“He knows the game well,” Poteau coach Greg Werner said. “He`s just a student of the game and he`s able to handle things now. Adversity, just doesn`t get down and he just keeps coming and makes things happen for us.”
“He feels like he`s never satisfied with what he`s doing,” senior receiver Jarrett Lowrimore said. “He always tries to get better. He`s a great runner. He`s improved every week running and a passer, he`s unbelievable.”
Pitchford is a nightmare match up for opposing coaches. The senior has thrown for nearly 1,400 yards and he’s added more than 1,100 more on the ground. You add play action to the equation and teams are left scratching their head.
“It`s a great advantage,” Pitchford said. “If the defense, if they key on me passing then we`ll run it and we`ve got a great running back in Roger so that helps me out a lot. It`s just a big advantage for me to make a play, third down situation I can run it or throw it. Makes the defense think twice and we can catch them on their heels.”
The first half of last week’s game against defending state champion didn’t go so well for the quarterback, though. Pitchford was picked off three times and his team trailed 7-0 heading to the fourth quarter.
But he stayed calm like always.
“He really showed who he was the other night,” Werner said. “He made three big mistakes in the first half throwing the pick but never got down, never looked down. He just kept fighting and in the fourth quarter he was just the man.”
“That could have been our last game ever and I just felt like I rose about it,” Pitchford said. “You just can`t get down. Can`t let yourself get down.”
Poteau scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, including Pitchford’s game winning field goal with four seconds left, to knock off Clinton 10-7.
The Pirates face Oklahoma City Douglass Saturday in the 4A semifinals in McAlester.