NACOGDOCHES — Two teams traveling diametrically different paths met up here Friday night at Dragon Stadium.
The courses were maintained as the Pine Tree Pirates won their fourth straight contest, garnering a hard-fought 38-28 conquest of the host Dragons in District 9-5A DII action.
Pine Tree, off to its best start in district since 1983, relied on its defense to set the tone in the second half with five forced turnovers.
The Pirates broke from a 14-14 halftime tie with a couple quick strikes and built a seemingly comfortable 28-14 lead.
After Dallas Dixon stoned Camorian Thacker on a fourth down, the Pirate offense rang up an 82-yard D.J. Freeman to Gabe Adams scoring toss. Adams led the Pirates with 105 yards on four carries.
Freeman, who rushed for 125 yards and threw for 221, crashed in from seven yards out after a Keith Wright pick. Brandt Herber’s foot made it 28-14 with 5:06 left in the third.
The Dragons wouldn’t wave the white flag, however, and scored on successive fourth period drives to pull back even at 28-28. QB Jake Smith, who led Nac with 82 yards on 13 carries, accounted for both scores.
Freeman, as he so often does, sparked the Pirates with a 64-yard dart to set up Herber’s 25-yard go-ahead score with 4:13 to play.
Smith was jarred loose of the ball on the ensuing drive and Ryan Levingston was the opportunist for the Pirates.
Freeman capped a 5-play, 32-yard push with his third rushing TD of the night to salt it away with 1:56 left.
The Dragons were unable to gather in a pooch kick and Kendle Thomas was there for a Pine Tree recovery. It was on to victory formation from there.
Nacogdoches, which fell for the third time in four league games, slipped for the sixth time in seven outings.
The Pirates struck first when Freeman slipped free a couple tackles, cut back across the grain and raced 38 yards to the house on fourth and one. Herber made it 7-0 with not even two minutes gone in the first quarter.
The Dragons responded in kind on their opening possession, moving 59 yards in 12 plays and chewing up 4:43 of the play clock. Thacker lumbered six yards around right end for the TD. Chris Linderos squared the score at 7-7 with his extra point.
A shanked 21-yard punt by Freeman set stage for Nac’s go-ahead score late in the first quarter. The Dragons took only one snap as Jamarion Sanders blazed a 39-yard trail to the pay window at 3:22.
Pine Tree accounted for the lone score in quarter two when Freeman pegged J.J. Sparkman from 16 yards out at 10:49 of the half. The duo paired for a 31-yard hookup two plays prior. Herber toed the PAT as the teams went to the break tied at 14-all. Sparkman wound up the night with 91 yards on seven receptions.
Pine Tree (5-2, 4-0) is back home Friday against Whitehouse, while Nacogdoches (1-6, 1-3) visits Marshall.