Beginning their season with a “Zero Week” game (a game scheduled prior to the start of school), the Pirates hope to repeat one aspect of last year’s season opener — a 31-14 win over the 1A Ignacio Bobcats — but will most likely desire not to repeat the numerous mistakes made in last year’s match.
With that said, rough edges or not, the Pirates travel to Ignacio Saturday night to challenge the Bobcats on their home turf.
With less than two weeks of practice under their belts, the Pirates will find out what aspects of the game need fine-tuning, while deciding if any positions need shifting.
Likewise, Saturday’s game will be a premier in terms of how well the team has acclimated to a new coach — Olin Garrison — and a revised approach to both offense and defense.
Garrison said he thinks his team has transitioned well, especially in converting out of the shotgun that had characterized the Pirate offensive attack the past few years.
“They’re coming around,” Garrison said.
“There’s some adjustment in there,” the coach said, referring to his line, “and there’s some schemes that keep them moving. I think they really like that.”
On the other side of the line, Garrison added that he felt his boys had also stepped up to assimilate the change.
“Defensively, I think they’re coming along,” he said.
Saturday night’s game should show if Garrison’s optimism is warranted.
Fortunately, the Pirates will be meeting a team in the process of rebuilding. Having graduated several key players last season, the Bobcats will most likely find Saturday night an exercise in determining where the team needs to fill in the gaps.
Conversely, the Pirates are fielding a squad that is long on depth as well as varsity experience (despite fielding only five seniors this year). Nevertheless, recent practices have revealed a backfield in need of growth. Although Garrison has moved Ty Lavato from guard to fullback (where the senior combines size with speed), the coach admitted that more adjustments might be needed to complement the ground game.
“We’re still a young team, but I think the leadership we have with Tyson (Ross) and Daniel (Puskas) will be a key in making this a winning team,” Garrison said.
Ross returns this season as quarterback and Puskas returns as a receiver, hopefully to repeat the league-leading numbers he logged last year. Both players are seniors.
Junior Kain Lucero also steps in as a receiver; along with Puskas, the two combine speed, agility and nerves of steel that suggest the Pirates will take full advantage of the passing game this season.
Despite the unknowns that plague any team early in the season, the smart line is that the Pirates leave Ignacio with their first tick in the win column.
Wash, rinse, repeat. Next Saturday, Sept. 3, the Pirates once again get on the team bus and head over the pass to meet the 1A Del Norte Tigers, hoping to repeat the 47-24 trouncing the Pirates handed out last season. However, the Tigers also field a seasoned squad and return with standout juniors Colin and Kevin Trujillo, along with junior Kristopher Lohr, the three providing a quick and relentless offensive attack.
With the first two games on the road, Pirates fans will have to wait until Sept. 9 to see their team at home, when Pagosa hosts the Kirtland Central Broncos. Having fallen 69-47 to the Broncos last season in Kirtland, N.M., the Pirates will once again face a seasoned and swift offense that provides an intimidating two-pronged attack. As usual, the Broncos bring a lot of size on a line that will most likely force the Pirates to pick up the pace on offense and defense.
Until then, the Bobcats await. Although Saturday’s game will most likely not set the tone for the rest of the season, it will certainly give Garrison and his team an idea of what tweaks need to be made over the next several weeks if the Pirates intend to keep a steady eye on post-season play.