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Buena Vista steals last-minute win from Pagosa Pirates

Facing Buena Vista, a team with one of the most dangerous and underrated offenses in 2A competition, the Pagosa Pirates managed to pull ahead in the fourth quarter, only to see their hopes for a win dashed on a penalty, giving the Demons enough room in the final minutes of Friday’s game to pull out a 30-26 victory.

Initially, the Pirates looked like they had shut down Buena Vista’s offense, holding them to a mere field goal lead with 1 minute, forty-nine seconds left in the first quarter. With a 95-yard runback on the kick and a touchdown by Tyson Ross, it looked as though Pagosa had the upper hand as they left the first quarter with a 6-3 lead.

“They have a good team,” coach Sean O’Donnell said, “big kids and they’re well coached,” adding, “their quarterback hurt us ... we didn’t have a good scheme to contain him.”

While the Pirates did a good job containing Buena Vista’s Dakota Johnson — one of the top-rated halfbacks in the state — as well as fullback Tim Allen, it was the Demon’s quarterback, Cody Troudt, who consistently made big plays and, eventually, scored the winning goal.

“He was the one who was the ‘X factor’ for us,” O’Donnell said. “Troudt was the one in the game that was the difference.”

The Demon offense showed its mettle early in the second quarter when Johnson broke away for a 35-yard rush to the goal line, setting up Buena Vista’s first lead of the game, edging out Pagosa 10-6. The Pirates answered midway into the period when Ross connected to Daniel Puskas for a 66-yard reception and rush. Ross completed the advantage with a 5-yard conversion, giving Pagosa a 14-10 lead going into the half.

The Demons dominated the third quarter on defense and offense, capitalizing on Pagosa mistakes and penalties. Turning a Pirate facemask call into an opportunity for a drive to the goal, Buena Vista’s Troudt produced again, holding the ball on first and goal and putting the Demons back on top, 17-14, early in the quarter.

With the Pirates watching three strong runners and flummoxed by all accounts, Allen took a dive across the goal line, giving Buena Vista a 23-14 advantage early in the fourth quarter.

Unwilling to cede home territory in the final quarter, the Pirates responded with back-to-back scores, retaking the lead early in the period. Puskas took another Ross pass at 9:08, going 57 yards to put Pagosa within striking distance. With 6:38, Will Appenzeller scooped up a Demon fumble deep behind the 50-yard line. Then, Ross pressed through Buena Vista’s defense, breaking six tackles and rushing 63 yards into the end zone, putting Pagosa up 26-23 with just 6:24 left in the game.

Although it looked as though the Pirates would clinch their Homecoming game when Ross intercepted a Demon bomb with just 3:10 left in the game, another Pagosa penalty in the Demon’s backfield set up another Troudt score. With a double reverse, Troudt outmaneuvered the Pirate defense and, with just over one minute left in the game, grabbed the game from an almost certain Pagosa victory.

Under pressure from a motivated Demon defense, the Pirates were unable to convert in the final seconds, passing possession off to a Demon team that was all-too-willing to take downs on a knee. With no time left, Buena Vista held onto Troudt’s final score and took the drive over the pass with a 30-26 victory.

“Buena Vista made more big plays than we did,” O’Donnell said, giving credit to the Demons.

“Ty Lavato had 20 tackles and a great game,” the coach added. “Max Miller and Dakota (Miller) did some nice things for us against guys that were bigger than them.”

Unfazed by a loss at home after a 3-1 record on the road, O’Donnell was nonetheless cautious about tomorrow night’s final away game against the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers.

“They’re undefeated in the league (Mountain 2A) and they’re tied with Buena Vista,” O’Donnell said. “It’s going to be a tough football game and probably, a must-win for the Pirates.”

Despite the loss, O’Donnell was nonetheless pleased with last Friday’s experience.

“I thought the atmosphere at Golden Peaks Stadium was electric,” he said, “and a really good football game.”

jim@pagosasun.com