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Monkey off the back
When a trio of Wheatland Pirates jumped on the loose ball that sealed a victory Friday night it was almost as if they were smashing 11 years of frustration into the ground at John Sohrakoff Jr. Field.
After quarterback Jon Millington took the final knee, Wheatland coach Javier Lopez couldn't wipe the smile off his face as he lifted his arms in triumph — he finally has at least a share of the Butte View League championship.
A sea of Pirates faithful clad in blue, waving the Jolly Roger, stormed the field to celebrate Wheatland's 13-12 victory over rival Sutter High, the Pirates' first win over the Huskies since 1999.
To say Lopez felt like he finally got the monkey off his back is probably the understatement of the decade.
"It's more like a zoo," Lopez said. "I told those guys, 'You were about 5 or 6 the last time we beat Sutter.' This has been a long time coming and we're going to enjoy this for awhile."
Sutter sophomore quarterback Trent Little put together a gutsy drive for the Huskies in the final two minutes, twice converting on fourth down and almost leading Sutter to victory.
Little drove Sutter (5-4, 2-1) to Wheatland's 34-yard line, but Wheatland defensive end Kennie Garges was able to force a fumble and seal the win for the Pirates.
"When we recovered that fumble I wanted to cry," said Pirates quarterback Jon Millington. "I was so happy. It's the best feeling I've ever had. (Little) put together a great drive at the end."
After Wheatland's star tailback Derick Seward went down with a back injury, Millington orchestrated a drive that drained 6:15 off the clock in the fourth quarter.
Millington carried the ball four times on the drive for 17 yards and Tyler Larcom, who hadn't carried the ball in practice in three weeks, notched 18 yards on three carries.
"I was pretty nervous," Larcom said. "Since last year's loss we've had this game circled. It's a relief. Finally."
When Seward was healthy, he was able to total 119 yards on 19 carries, amounting for all of Wheatland's scoring.
Seward's first touchdown run was from 13 yards out in the first quarter after Little put Sutter ahead 6-0 with a 22-yard scamper on the opening possession of the game.
Wheatland safety Nolan West had an interception on the Huskies' ensuing possession that set up the Pirates at Sutter's 27-yard line. Seward put Wheatland ahead 13-6 with a 14-yard run.
Justin Gildemeister scored from 15 yards out at the beginning of the fourth quarter to cut the Pirates' lead to one.
"We were going to leave it all out here tonight," Millington said. "Everybody played their hardest. We all stepped up."
Since that 28-12 Pirates' victory 11 years ago, the Huskies have won an unprecedented nine league championships and four section championships. If Wheatland can beat Gridley next Friday, the Pirates (8-1, 3-0) will win the league outright.
But, this rivalry is far from over.
Despite a heartbreaking loss, the Huskies may have a shot at revenge. The two teams could potentially meet in the second round of the CIF North Section playoffs.
In fact, Sutter coach Ryan Reynolds is counting on it.
"Games like tonight is what high school football is all about," Reynolds said. "If we take care of business, we'll be right back here playing Wheatland in the playoffs. We want that scenario more than anything."