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It's the Pirates' year
Drenched, filthy and screaming to the sky, the Wheatland High football team stomped in the midfield mud as the chants of "'ship, 'ship, 'ship," filled John Sohrakoff Jr. Field.
Their star running back called it destiny. Their coach dubbed it a testament to hard work. The fans simply stormed the field to high-five and hug. No amount of rain could temper this moment: The top-seeded Pirates are heading to the Northern Section Division II championship.
They beat their biggest rival to do it, besting No. 4 Sutter 30-6 on Friday with Derick Seward and quarterback Jon Millington both rushing for a pair of second-half touchdowns and the Pirates' defense forcing four lost fumbles.
"The whole team is fired up, and the coaches," said Seward, who finished with 173 of the muddiest yards of his prep career. "We're for real, we're for real out here." They showed as much in the second half. When these two teams played here three weeks ago, the Pirates squeaked out a 13-12 victory to clinch the Butte View League title. This time, with fresh "2010 league champions" logos on their blue and white jerseys, they proved their first victory over Sutter in 11 seasons wasn't a fluke.
It started with Seward, who returned the opening kickoff of the half to the opposing 47 yard line. Millington capped off the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run to give Wheatland its first points of the game after being shut out in the first 24 minutes. A two-point conversion run gave the Pirates all the points they would need with 6:54 to play in the third.
Memo to Pirates fans: Aside from praising Seward, Millington, the offensive line for opening up holes and the defense for coming up with crucial turnovers, thank the not-so-thick walls of the locker room.
At halftime, Sutter was up 6-0 after a Justin Gildemeister 14-yard touchdown run and had effectively stymied the Pirates, including stuffing Millington on a fourth-and-goal at the three.
It gave the Huskies cause to celebrate, Lopez said, and his team could hear the cheers emanating from the visitor's locker room to theirs. The coach immediately took the noise and used it as a motivation.
"We didn't focus too much on X's and O's, we talked about them wanting it," Lopez said. The celebration started a bit premature on their end and I think that kind of worked our kids up, especially the seniors, I saw a different look in them."
After Millington's touchdown, Wheatland recovered a fumble on Sutter's first offensive play from scrimmage following the score. Millington again came through, earning all three of his yards as he took a huge hit behind the line and stayed upright to make it 16-6. Seward's two touchdowns — on runs of 4 and 39 yards — added security that insured the celebration of the season would take place for Wheatland.
Come Wednesday against No. 2 Lassen, the party could be even bigger for a team that's waited a long time for this opportunity.