It was as if a different team took the field during the second half when the Pirates returned from a tie in the first half to defeat the Montezuma-Cortez High School Panthers 40-21 last Friday night at Golden Peaks Stadium.
On the heels of a 28-14 defeat last week in Buena Vista and a sloppy 14-3 win in Pagosa Springs against the Salida Spartans (who were demolished 61-13 last Friday in Alamosa by the newly-inspired Mean Moose), the Pirates took the field on Friday looking like the team that deserved a drop in 2A rankings.
For instance, a superb runback by Daniel Puskas was called back on a penalty, the first play on the drive was negated on another penalty — putting the Pirates into a first-and-twenty position. Although the Panthers were given a short drive after retrieving possession on downs, Pagosa managed to score with three minutes, 58 seconds left on a 27-yard rush by quarterback Tyson Ross.
Following a Panther drive that went nowhere, the Pirates wasted no time setting up after the punt reception, scoring with :52 left in the first on a 83-yard pass reception and run by Puskas.
However, it took no time for the Panthers to return from a 14-0 deficit when senior Tam Phan (the only effective weapon in the MCHS arsenal) ran back Pagosa’s kick 85 yards, putting the score at 14-7 with :34 left in the quarter. A short TD pass by the Panthers with 2:45 left in the second sent the teams into the locker room with a 14-14 tie at the end of the half.
“He’s (Phan) an excellent player and after the game I went up to him and shook his hand and told him what a superb job he did,” said Pirate’s head coach Olin Garrison.
Garrison added, “In the second quarter we had kind of a lull, I don’t know what happened. But a win’s a win, and we’ll take it.”
It was a different Pirate team coming into the second half, one seemingly determined to compensate for the lull during the second quarter. Just 3:32 into the quarter, Pagosa capitalized on good field position (provided by a pass interference call against the Panthers), as well as ground gained by Pirate fullback Clay Ross who capped a total of 40 yards gained during the first drive of the half with a 14-yard run into the endzone for a 21-14 advantage.
Clay Ross repeated with 4:43 left in the quarter, converting a short rush into another Pagosa TD to give the Pirates a 28-14 lead.
With penalties negating several impressive Phan rushes, an MCHS drive that could have produced a late third quarter score resulted in the Panthers forced to punt the ball away. Taking the ball on their own 12 yard line, a 19-yard rush by Clay Ross set up a 69-yard pass reception by Puskas, putting Pagosa up 34-14 with less than a minute into the fourth.
It appeared that the Pirates would stop MCHS cold when Puskas intercepted a Panther pass at 8:35, but the play was called back on a pass interference flag. Converting on a fourth-and-two, it was all Phan for the Panthers who chewed up enough yardage to put more MCHS points on the board with 3:36 left, closing the gap to 34-21.
It looked as though the Panthers would get another bite at the apple after retrieving the onside kick and after a Pagosa sack for a 20-yard loss was called back on a holding call. However, an interception by Greg Griswald at just over two minutes left set up another effective Pagosa drive from the MCHS 45 yard line.
With Clay Ross chewing up more ground behind a screen pass converted into a 34 yard gain, Jeremiah Miller rushed in for the Pirates’ final score of the game with 1:54 left, sealing a 40-21 Pagosa victory.
Tyson Ross threw for a total of 283 yards, going 10 for 18 and logging two touchdowns. Clay Ross was also credited with two touchdowns behind a total of 78 yards rushing, while Puskas finished with 206 yards receiving (and two touchdowns) and an impressive 41.2 yards-per-catch.
Following Friday night’s victory for a 6-1 season record, the Pirates returned to the Denver Post Preps top ten (at number 10) after being dropped from the poll the previous week, while climbing up one spot to number nine in the Colorado Preps rankings.
In other Mountain league games on Friday, the Buena Vista Demons defeated the Falcons 33-21 in Centauri — a game the Pirates should be reviewing over the next week in preparation for a Saturday afternoon match against Centauri on Oct. 29.
The Bayfield Wolverines had the week off.
Taking a bye this week, the Pirates will have an opportunity to observe how other conference opponents fare this weekend. Tomorrow night, the 1-7 Panthers host the 6-0 Wolverines at MCHS while the 3-4 Mean Moose travel to Buena Vista to challenge the Demons. Also tomorrow night, Salida hosts the Falcons — another game the Pirates will most likely take a close look at.
Given minor injuries suffered by some Pirates, Garrison said, “It’s probably a good time for a break. It gives us a chance to heal up and regroup.”
Next week (given no game to report on), The SUN will take a look at potential post-season 2A scenarios. The Pirates will certainly be seeded if they can get past the Wolverines on Nov. 4 in Bayfield — a big “if.” Conversely, should the Pirates win in Centauri but lose the next weekend in Bayfield, the best Pagosa can hope for is a wildcard slot, travelling a long way to play in unfriendly territory.