The South Pittsburg Pirates mercy ruled Monterey in the first round of the Class 1A state football playoffs Friday night. After scoring 21 first-quarter points, South Pittsburg (11-0) cruised to a 41-0 victory.

Even though the Pirates dominated the game, the team did struggle at times and South Pittsburg Head Coach Vic Grider said he definitely saw areas to improve.

“I am not sure if that was our best effort,” he said. “We were sluggish in some places. We really struggled offensively for whatever reason. I don’t know if it was the fact we were out of school (for an in-service day on Friday). Sometimes that has a weird effect on us. But we have to get better to be where we want to be.”

Grider said he has confidence that his team will work to improve before their second-round matchup this Friday. He also said getting key players back from injury will help.

“We got guys who are willing to work at it and get better,” he said. “We have to get some people back. We need (wide receiver) Cade (Kennemore) back. We have to get (lineman Hayden) Branham healthy. He got nicked up in the first half (against Monterey). That’s a big part of it. But we are one game closer and that’s all we can ask for.”

Monterey (6-5) got the ball to start the game, but the Pirate’s stingy defense held them to a three-and-out during that drive.

It did not take the Pirates long to score. On their first play, South Pittsburg’s Sawyer Kelley found a seam and cruised into the end zone from 49 yards out with 10:48 to go in the first quarter.

The Pirates increased their lead about five minutes later. Mr. Football semifinalist Garrett Raulston rumbled into the end zone from 10 yards out for the score.

Kelley added another score with 3:37 to go in the first. He rattled off an 81-yard run for pay dirt.

All of E.J. Cagle’s extra points were good and the Pirates had a 21-0 lead after one quarter of action.

Ronto Tipton found the end zone twice in the second quarter. He capped a Pirate drive with a two-yard score with 8:43 to go in the half. He then added another two-yard score at the 3:20 mark.

Cagle tacked on one extra point, but a botched snap on the second attempt kept the Pirates one point away from the 35-point mercy rule. South Pittsburg went into the half up 34-0.

The Pirates activated the mercy rule on their opening drive of the second half. After starting the drive on Monterey’s 47-yard line, the Pirates drove the ball to the seven where Tipton capped the drive with a rushing score.

Cagle’s extra point was good and the Pirates led 41-0 with 8:12 to go in the third quarter.

With the clock now continuously running, neither team could establish their running games, but South Pittsburg secured the win.

The Pirates had 442 offensive yards, 369 on the ground and 73 through the air. Monterey had 51 yards rushing and 52 yards passing for 103 total offensive yards.

Kelley had 202 yards rushing with 11 carries. Tipton had 72 yards on 14 tries and Raulston had 62 yards on eight carries.

The Pirates will host Jo Byrnes this Friday night in the second round of the playoffs. 

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