ANOTHER THREE-PEAT: Piper knocks off Jefferson West to win bi-district title


By NICK SLOAN, NJSloan212@gmail.com

For the Piper Pirates football team, it was about repetition.

For Piper senior running back Matt McDonald, it was about redemption.

McDonald, who suffered a season-ending injury in the first round of the 4A playoffs last season, played perhaps the best game of his Pirates career in Tuesday's 34-21 victory over Jefferson West.

McDonald scored four touchdowns in the game, including the game-winner.

But for the Pirates, it took awhile before shaking off Jefferson West. Jefferson West scored the opening touchdown of the game, a 25-yard touchdown pass that put the Pirates down 6-0.

Piper responded with its own touchdown drive to begin the game.

Sophomore Colton Beebe had the big play of the drive, a 40-yard rush. The senior McDonald finished off the drive with a 19-yard touchdown run, giving Piper a 7-6 lead.

After struggling on its opening drive, the Piper defense stiffened up for most of the first half.

After they forced Jefferson West to go three and out, Piper began another drive that featured a lengthy Beebe run and a McDonald run that ended it.

Beebe had about a 20-yard carry, setting up McDonald's second touchdown of the game - this one coming from 35 yards out at the 8:18 mark of the second quarter.

"It was a fun game for me tonight," McDonald said. "It's been hard work and my lineman played hard and blocked for us."

Jefferson West did not go away.

After taking the ball over deep inside their own territory, Jefferson West's offense gashed Piper's defense, using misdirection plays and a quarterback sneak on fourth down to finish the drive with a touchdown.

The two point conversion left the score tied at 14-14.

In the second half, two unsung heroes stepped up to make big plays for the Pirates.

On the opening kickoff of the second half, Dion Saunders returned a squib kick deep inside Jefferson West territory. The return set up McDonald's third touchdown of the game, coming from 17 yards out that helped Piper regain the lead at 20-14.

After missing two earlier opportunities on turnovers, Piper was finally able to get that two-touchdown lead late in the third quarter. Cliff Rangel converted a huge 3rd-and-15 after catching a pass from Tanner Eikenbary.

Rangel's catch kept the drive going, long enough for McDonald to punch home his fourth touchdown of the game.

"Matt worked really hard at his recovery," said Piper head coach Chris Brindle. "We think he's stronger now than he was last year. You can't teach some of the stuff he has."

Like Michael Myers or any other classic horror movie villain, Jefferson West continued to haunt Piper until the final seconds ticked off. Jefferson West cut the lead down to 27-21 with a touchdown in the middle of the fourth quarter.

More drama developed as it appeared Jefferson West would get one more crack at taking the lead until Piper's other senior running back struck.

Paul Jones, who was silent most of the night, had what might have been his most important carry of his four-year career at Piper.

On a 4th-and-12, Jones took an inside draw all the way for a 34-yard touchdown run, one that sealed the deal for the Pirates and clinched the school's third straight bi-district championship.

"That play is something we have been working on," Brindle said. "With PJ, you have a chance to bust one for a touchdown or lose yardage. His linemen made the blocks and he just executed it."

Outside of the Jones play, the biggest story on the night was McDonald's redemption.

"It's great to play on a Saturday with the team after missing it last year," McDonald said.

Piper will take on Baldwin this Saturday. More details on the location and time of the game will be available ASAP.