CENTER POINT— As soon as he reached the end zone late in the first quarter, Kolten Kitchens turned toward his Center Point teammates and flexed both arms.
The junior quarterback deserved to celebrate.
Moments earlier, Kitchens had scampered down the right sideline, executed a spin move to elude two would-be tacklers and delivered a stiff arm to a third defender on his way for a 39-yard touchdown.
It was the Pirates’ first touchdown against Texas Military Institute, and it set the tone for the rest of the evening.
The Pirates had plenty of reasons to celebrate during their 38-7 victory over the Panthers on Thursday night. Their defense manhandled TMI, holding the Panthers to 104 yards on 55 plays. Their quarterback, Kitchens, also flexed on the Panthers, rushing for 156 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. And senior Alex Valadez was dominant on both sides of the ball, savaging TMI on the ground for 93 yards and two touchdowns, while continuing to deliver punishing hits on defense.
The final result: The victory bell at Center Point Pirates Stadium rang for the third straight week. The Pirates (3-0) will try to remain unbeaten when they play at Ingram Tom Moore next Friday.
“We knew we were going to win this game,” Center Point coach Bubba Walters said. “They graduated a great senior group. When we show up and play, we are good. I really think we can compete. Our defense has done so darn good this year.”
It wasn’t a perfect performance from the Pirates. They committed 16 penalties and turned the ball over twice on their side of the field in the second in the half. They know they will have to correct those errors when district play begins.
But the Pirates didn’t have to be perfect to deliver a dominating performance on Thursday. That’s an encouraging sign moving forward.
“(This team) could be really good,” Walters said. “We have to clean up some mistakes, but other than that, we have some skill.”
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Valadez gave the Pirates some breathing room with 4:21 left in the second quarter, when he bulldozed his way into the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown, stretching Center Point’s lead to 17-0.
He extended that advantage to 24-0 on the Pirates’ first drive of the second half, charging through the teeth of the defense for a nine-yard touchdown.
“Alex did a great job,” Walters said.
After his second touchdown, it appeared that only remaining drama in the contest was going to be whether or not the Pirates were going to earn a shutout. They fell short of that goal, allowing a 63-yard pass in the fourth quarter.
A SECOND KEY MOMENT
Before halftime, TMI had a chance to make the game somewhat competitive.
Late in the second quarter, the Panthers’ defense stuffed the Pirates on 4th-and-1 to give its offense the ball at Center Point’s 37-yard line. It was a golden opportunity for TMI. The Panthers could melt the deficit to 17-7, enter halftime with some confidence and they were going to receive the ball to begin the second half.
Trent Cabaniss and Alex Valadez, though, paired up to squash any sort of momentum TMI might have gained from the fourth-down stop. First it was Cabaniss, plowing through the offensive line to sack quarterback Trent Corley for a loss of 11 yards. Then on third down, Valadez stormed through a gap to slam Corley to the turf for another sack.
TMI had to punt, and the Pirates entered the locker room with a three-possession lead.
WACKY STAT OF THE GAME
The Pirates likely will rank No. 1 in District 14-2A Div. I today in rushing defense after holding the Panthers to -41 yards on the ground.
The Pirates will travel west on Texas 27 next Friday to play their rival Ingram. They fell to the Warriors, 34-10, last season.
“Next we have a battle,” Walters said. “We are going to watch Ingram play tomorrow. They are very, very big. … It will be a good test for us.”