After last week’s big 35-0 win against the Dolores Bears, Pirate’s coach Sean O’Donnell said that the tough ground game and impenetrable defense exhibited by the Pagosa team was “a turning point.”
Those words were portentous as the Pirates made quick work of the Mean Moose during a third straight road game, taking Alamosa down 46-27 last Friday.
It was sweet revenge for the Pirates who had lost narrowly to Alamosa 34-37 last season at Golden Peaks stadium in a game that came down to the final minutes.
“We had another great game,” O’Donnell said. “We were in control of most of the game.”
However, it was the Pirate’s passing game that eventually led to the undoing of Alamosa. With Tyson Ross throwing for an average 9.5 yards per pass play (210 yards total) to score four touchdowns, the Mean Moose showed little ability to stop Ross or Pagosa receivers Daniel Puskas and Zach Lucero.
The Pirates still managed 110 yards on the ground, with Ross running for 48 yards total and an average 5.3 yards per rush (and two touchdowns) and Dakota Miller averaging 3.4 yards per rush with a total 62 yards for the game.
The Pirates exploded in the first quarter with a 60-yard Ross pass to Puskas, putting Pagosa up 6-0 with 5:13 left in the first quarter.
Capitalizing on lack of cohesion on the Mean Moose offensive line, Clay Ross rushed in to block an Alamosa punt and, taking the ball into the end zone, put the Pirates up 12-0 with 2:34 left in the period.
During the second quarter, the Mean Moose offense found themselves picked off twice, once in the end zone to foil an Alamosa scoring attempt, a second time to set up a drive resulting in a 2-yard rush by Ross and, with a Ross kick good for the extra point, Pagosa left the first half up 19-0.
Early in the second half, Alamosa finally gained some momentum, converting a 70-yard drive into a touchdown, slightly slicing into the Pirate’s lead with a 19-7 game. Unshaken, the Pirates responded with a quick drive to the goal line midway into the third. Taking a leap across the line, Ross widened Pagosa’s lead 25-7.
Taking advantage of a poor Pagosa punt late in the third, the Mean Moose edged a little closer, narrowing the score 25-13 with minutes to go in the quarter. Again, unwilling to accede anything to Alamosa, Lucero made good on a short 15-yard pass from Ross, and with the extra point good, Pagosa went into the final quarter with a 32-13 lead.
After a slow start to the fourth quarter, Alamosa struck back with 5:34 left in the game, narrowing the margin to 32-20. From there, it was an offensive shooting match, with Pagosa holding the advantage.
With just minutes to go, Puskas took his second touchdown reception, adding a 10-yard rush to a 39-yard pass, and with Ross good on the extra point, the Pirate’s were up 39-20.
Moments later, the Mean Moose made good on a long pass to shave the margin to 39-27 but Puskas, earning the hat trick, spoiled a last-ditch effort by the Mean Moose, taking a 30-yard interception into the end zone and, with another Ross extra point, the Pirates left Alamosa with the 46-27 victory.
In fact, Puskas’s performance on Friday earned him first place standing in 2A statewide, with 11 TDs and a total of 611 yards for the season — well ahead of Aspen’s Quinn Morehead’s second place performance with five TDs and 350 season yards.
Adding that Puskas was not just the only player with an outstanding game, O’Donnell said, “Clay Ross had a great game, with a blocked punt that he converted into a touchdown and was in on 10 tackles.”
Now 4-1 for the season (the only loss coming against Kirtland Central two weeks ago in New Mexico) and 1-0 in the 2A Mountain conference, the Pirates finish up their long stretch of away games (four straight) in Salida for a second conference game against the 3-2 Spartans (0-1 in 2A Mountain play).
Although Salida lost soundly to the Pirates (46-18) last year with the “mercy rule” running through most of the second half of that game (and the Pirate’s JV playing a good portion of the game), the Spartans are fielding a seasoned squad of returning players who will, no doubt, be looking to get payback for last year’s trouncing at the hands of the Pirates.
The Pirates return to Golden Peaks stadium on Oct. 8 for their homecoming match against the Buena Vista Demons, a team Pagosa pounded 50-14 last year on Demon turf. The 3-1 Demons have won big against several tough 2A teams, Buena Vista has only lost to Colorado Springs Christian — a team that appears poised for certain post-season play.
“They (the Demons) also have one of the best backs in the league, Jacob Weiss,” O’Donnell said. “We’re going to really have to keep an eye on him.”
However, with a bye this week for the Demons and a tough match in Salida for the Pirates, down time and preparation could make a difference in the Oct. 8 homecoming game.