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The torrential rains paused, the clouds parted and for a couple of hours last Friday night all eyes were on the high school football game as the Pagosa Springs Pirates hosted the Aspen Skiers at Golden Peaks Stadium, and even though it resulted in the boys’ third straight defeat of the year, the hometown crowd remained enthusiastic to the bitter end.
“This is two weeks in a row we’ve been ahead at some point in the second half,” Coach Scott Spoede said.
The opening kickoff dropped out of the cool, crisp evening air and the Skiers’ receiver returned it to their 30. A couple of penalty calls against the Pirate defense kept the drive alive long enough for one of the Skiers’ running backs to break loose to the Pirate 20.
The Skiers continued to push their way steadily through the red zone to the 4-yard line and from there, a quarterback sneak up the middle scored the first touchdown of the game with just under six minutes left in the first quarter. The extra point was good, making the score 7-0.
The Pirates had no response, receiving the kickoff on their own 35, but making very little progress from there. David McRee was forced to punt on fourth down and long yardage.
The Skiers started their second drive of the game from their own 26 after a holding call on the punt return, but by the end of the first quarter they had marched all the way down to within two yards of the end zone.
The first play of the second quarter was a touchdown for Aspen, but the snap was high for the extra point and it got away from the holder, so the score remained 13-0.
However, this time around, things turned out differently for the Pirates, as Jeremiah Miller received the kickoff on his own 14-yard line, eluded several tackles, picked up a couple of good blocks, and ran it all the way back for a touchdown. The two-point conversion play, a run up the middle, was successful, closing the gap on the scoreboard to 13-8.
“The touchdown on the kick return is what kept us in the game,” Spoede said.
This time it was the Pirates’ turn to stop the Skier offense in their tracks. After Creede Wylie tackled the runner in the backfield for a loss of four, the Skiers were forced to punt on fourth down.
A 10-yard pass to Tate Drane, a face mask call against the Skiers, and a spectacular run by Miller that included breaking three tackles, landed the Pirates on the Skiers’ 35, but during the next play, a pitch back to Miller, the ball was mishandled and the fumble was scooped up by Aspen.
“As a team,” the coach commented after the game, “we must learn to execute and finish a game. Specifically, it came down to errors. There were many botched snaps, a fumble returned for a touchdown and off-sides penalties. We have to remain disciplined on defense and we must take care of the ball on offense.”
The skiers took over on their own 47, but the Pirate frustration began to show as the next several plays all ended with yellow flags on the field, including a couple for unsportsmanlike conduct and a face mask, allowing the Skiers to penetrate all the way to the 5-yard line.
The turning point came when Wylie sacked the Skier quarterback and then several penalties went the other way, backing the Skiers further away from the goal line. Two incomplete passes resulted in a fourth down and goal on the 18, so the Skiers turned to their kicker, who came up short on the 37-yard field goal attempt.
The Pirates took over on their own 20, but a short run, a couple of flags, an incomplete pass and a sack against quarterback Dean Scott forced the Pirates to punt.
However, two plays later the ball was fumbled and the Pirates recovered it on the Skiers’ 46. Keenan Early then broke away to the 33, Miller made a couple of 5-yard runs, and Scott completed a 12-yard pass to McRee.
The Pirates continued to press to within a foot or two of the goal line, but on fourth down, instead of going for a field goal, the Pirates tried to run the ball up the middle, where they were repelled by a wall of defenders.
The Skiers took over on their own 1-yard line, but were only able to get off two snaps before the halftime buzzer sounded.
Marcos Quezada began the second half by returning the kickoff from near the 5 out to the 31. Scott then kept the ball for himself and brought the crowd to its feet with a 55-yard run. After another handoff for short yardage, Scott dropped back to pass, but under a lot of pressure from the defense was forced to run it again, making it to the Skiers’ 14.
Several short runs up the middle brought up fourth down and one on the 4-yard line, but then the defense jumped offsides, so half the distance to the goal line made it first and goal on the 2, allowing Scott the chance to sneak it up the middle for the Pirates’ second touchdown.
By this point in the game, the field was being churned into a muddy mess, and the two-point conversion was stopped short when Miller slipped, giving the Pirates a narrow 14-13 lead.
The Skiers took the kickoff on their 10-yard line and proceeded to march the ball out to near midfield, where they were finally stopped by the Pirate defense and forced to punt.
The Pirates took over on their own 23 and managed to pick up a first down out to the 33, but as Scott dropped back to pass on second down he was sacked, the ball popped loose, and it was scooped up by a defender, who ran it all the way back for a touchdown. A successful two-point conversion gave the Skiers a seven-point lead, 21-14, with only three and a half minutes left in the third quarter.
The Pirates received a low kickoff on their 26 and managed to make it out to the 40 before they had to punt. The kick took a good roll and wound up on the Skiers’ seven, and within a couple plays there was a fumble, which the Pirates recovered on the four. Keenan Early finished out the third quarter by running up the middle to the 2.
However, the beginning of the fourth quarter saw the Pirates make it to within a half yard of the goal without penetrating the end zone, again choosing to go for it on fourth down instead of kicking a field goal, allowing the Skiers to take over on their own one yard line.
The Pirates were given one more chance when Miller recovered a fumble on the Skiers’ 32, but after four downs were unable to make any progress, choosing once again to not attempt a field goal on fourth down.
The Pirates got possession of the ball one more time in the last quarter, but at this point the Skiers were able to hold them to four downs, then run the clock down, ending the game with the 21-14 advantage.
“The boys did great things in all three phases of the game,” the coach summed up, “but we need to tighten things up a little.”
Tomorrow night, the Pirates travel to Basalt to take on the Longhorns, who also suffered their third straight loss of the season last week, losing a close 8-6 battle to the Bayfield Wolverines.