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Pirates beat Cortez, ready for Homecoming

Despite the fact they walked off the field with a win by a large margin, the Pirates’ 47-28 victory on Friday night against the 3A Montezuma-Cortez Panthers was hard fought. Although Pagosa never fell behind, the Panthers managed to claw their way back to a close game in the third quarter.

Early in the game, however, the Pirates steam-rolled the Panthers, scoring 20points while shutting out their opponents.

After dropping the opening kick, the Panthers continued to showan inability to hold onto the ball, giving up a fumble in the early minutes of the game, setting Pagosa up for their first touchdown. After converting a fourth-and-four gamble into a first-and-goal, junior standout Dakota Miller rushed in for his first of four touchdowns for the game. An extra point by Tyler Sharp (who went five for six) put Pagosa up 7-0 with eight minutes and 54 seconds left in the quarter.

Relentless, the Pirates cut down the Panthers with both offensive and defensive weapons. A phenomenal drive, starting with a 35-yard Miller rush, a 15-yard reception by Paul Hoffman and culminating with a 6-yard rush by quarterback Taylor Shaffer pumped the lead up to 14-0 with just 1:43 left in the quarter.

Picking up another Panther fumble, the Pirates continued marauding and with just seconds left in the first quarter, a Miller rush into the endzone (assisted by an excellent block by Andrew Rice) saw Pagosa up 20-0 going into the second quarter.

Continuing the onslaught, the Pirates boosted their lead again with a 69-yard rush by Miller with 10:43 left in the quarter, putting Pagosa up 26-0. Unfortunately, with Pagosa on their own 3-yard line, an astounding 97-yard rush by Tyson Ross was called back on a penalty and the Pirates were unable to gain back that momentum.

In fact, it was at that point in the game that the Panthers began to gain momentum. Intercepting a Shaffer pass at 5:32, Cortez managed to put up their first points of the game at 4:26 but still trailing 26-6.

Moments later, a 59-yard Hoffman reception with 2:01 left in the half allowed Pagosa to answer the Panthers’ drive and boost their lead to 33-6.

However, an effort by Cortez junior Minh Phan, with the running back breaking numerous Pirate tackles, put the Panthers just inches from the goal. After a delay due to a game-ending injury for Phan, Cortez added another touchdown and another two points with a successful conversion with one second left, leaving them down 33-14 at the half.

During the third quarter, the Panthers looked poised to pounce on the Pirates, scoring touchdowns at the 10:02 and 4:50 mark and allowing just one Pagosa touchdown in the quarter.

At 7:27, Zach Lucero took a 20-yard Shaffer pass but the Pirates seemed a bit shaken by the Panthers’ ability to conjure up nine lives — and their success at reading Pagosa’s offense. Going into the final quarter, Pagosa held onto a 40-28 lead.

“We kind of had some miscues,” said Pirate Coach Sean O’Donnell, regarding Cortez outscoring Pagosa in the third quarter. “We missed a couple of big plays and allowed them (the Panthers) to get their excitement back, build their momentum.”

In fact, early in the fourth quarter the Panthers were again within striking distance, having moved the ball within 8 yards of the goal. However, the Pirate defense held, regaining possession after Cortez failed to capitalize on a fourth and goal situation.

Having potentially put themselves within five points from taking the lead, the Panthers found themselves out of room, out of time and out of lives.

With Pagosa switching to a conservative and steady approach on offense, the Pirates managed to chew up turf and time, preventing any further Cortez success while managing to score one more touchdown with 1:37 left in the game on a 25-yard Shaffer-to-Hoffman pass. With 1:13 left, Austin Jones recovered a Cortez fumble, sealing the Panthers’ fate and giving Pagosa a 47-28 victory.

Cortez, having put their sites on Shaffer and Ross, allowed the Pirates to take advantage of their depth and the talents of both Hoffman and Miller. “You take what the defense gives you,” the coach said regarding Hoffman and Miller’s numbers. “They left the middle of the field open.”

In fact, Miller racked up 147 rushing yards along with his four rushing TDs. The seemingly unstoppable Shaffer managed 242 passing yards, 40 rushing yards, with two TD passes and one rushing TD.

At 2-1, the Pirates meet the Dolores Bears Friday in the Homecoming game. The 1A Bears are currently 1-2, having lost 36-7 on Sept. 4 to the Bayfield Wolverines (who had beaten Cortez 22-17 on Aug. 28) and 46-14 to the 1A Paonia Eagles on Aug. 28.

Still, O’Donnell is taking nothing for granted and said his team is working hard to prepare for the homecoming game, tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at Golden Peaks stadium.

jim@pagosasun.com