| Special to The Greenville News
TAYLORS – J.L. Mann’s Joseph Pietrobono’s entire night changed on the first play of Friday’s season-opener between Patriots and Eastside.
After starting quarterback Ethan Anderson suffered an injury on a run, the senior captain was asked to come in and lead the Patriots. He responded with a pair of scores, one through the air and the other on the ground, to lead J.L. Mann to a 13–8 victory.
“The first thing I thought about was what happened to him,” Pietrobono said. “He is my teammate, and I care about him first. I knew I had to go out there and get it done, but it wasn’t just me at all. We got it done… the team got it done.”
With 6:27 remaining in the first half, Pietrobono gave the Patriots a 6-0 lead on a 21-yard strike to Jordan Meggett. He then pushed the lead to 13-0 on the first drive of the third quarter on an 18-yard keeper.
With a defense that didn’t allow Eastside’s offense to score, Pietrobono’s confidence grew after the second touchdown.
“I knew my teammates had my back,” Pietrobono said. “They performed. I just helped them. I can’t take the glory. They were there for me. That’s all them.”
Pietrobono passed for 90 yards and a couple of sacks combined with a few snaps that he had to chase down and fall on kept his rushing yards low, but he played a smart game and rarely put the Patriots in a bad situation.
Eastside’s first points came on an errant snap that rolled out of the end zone for a safety. The Eagles scored again on Pietrobono’s one big mistake of the night – a pass that was intercepted by Cade Erwin and returned for a 15-yard score.
“I really don’t know what happened on that one,” Pietrobono said. “I am just so blessed that we have a defense like ours that made up for the mistakes and coaches who knew what to do.”
J.L. Mann’s coach Scoot Watson said the team had complete confidence in the senior when Anderson suffered the injury.
“Joseph has been here before,” Watson said. “When Ethan went down, we had all of the faith in the world in Joseph. He was one of our captains tonight. We rallied behind him. He worked hard all offseason. We decided this week to go with Ethan, but Joseph has been getting reps in practice and was ready for the opportunity.”
Watson said that Pietrobono’s leadership, along with several others, was part of the culture the program is trying to build.
“The guys stepped up,” Watson said. “They got some opportunities, and they made the most of them. We coach all of our kids hard. That’s something we believe in.
“Starting the season with a win means a lot. They have been few and far between here over the last decade, and we want to change that. Tonight gets us going in that direction.”