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The Pagosa Springs Pirates’ homecoming football game against the Basalt Longhorns last Friday night at Golden Peaks Stadium was a nail-biter all the way to the bitter end, with a final score of 10-7 resulting in the Pirates’ fourth straight loss.
“We weren’t consistent,” head coach Olin Garrison explained. “We looked really good at times and then at times we didn’t look too good. Consistency is the word. Part of it is inexperience.”
The Longhorns jumped to an early lead with a field goal one minute into the game. The Pirates were unable to make a first down after the kickoff and were forced to punt, but the Longhorn runner fumbled and the ball was recovered by Dalton Madden, who ran it to the Basalt 35 yard line.
Caden Hendersen ran for a first down, but then the Pirates were unable to go beyond the 20 yard line. On fourth down and long, the Pirates went for the pass instead of attempting a field goal, but it was incomplete.
“We’re not that proficient at kicking field goals that far,” Garrison explained
The Longhorns took the ball on their own 20, and after a holding call and a sack by Keenan Early they were in danger of a safety, so on third down and long they caught the Pirates off guard with a quick kick from the shotgun formation. The ball took a Basalt roll and ended up on the Pirates’ 43 yard line.
After two penalties, a fumble that was recovered by the Pirates, and an incomplete pass, the Pirates went for it again on fourth and long, only to have a long pass intercepted and returned to the 45 yard line to end the first quarter.
“We had quite a few penalties,” Garrison explained later. “Offsides, illegal procedure, and we had a couple of high/low blocks or chop blocks. I don’t know if you know what that means. It’s where a blocker comes in high and another guy comes in and blocks him low. That’s illegal and we don’t teach that. Those are fifteen-yarders. We were looking on the video afterwards and we didn’t see them. We don’t understand why he was calling them, but there’s nothing you can do about officiating. That’s just the way it is.”
The beginning of the second quarter saw the Longhorns rush to the 50 yard line and then an encroachment call against the Pirates brought up second down and one yard. A 12-yard run earned the Longhorns a first down and brought them to the Pirates’ 32 yard line, but that was all the further the Pirate defense would allow them to go.
Slade Wylie caught the runner in the backfield for a loss of two yards, Marcos Quezada stopped the next runner, and then the Longhorn quarterback was sacked, bringing up fourth and long and forcing a field goal attempt, which was blocked and scooped up by Cody Kimsey, who ran the ball more than 60 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was good, giving the Pirates a 7-3 lead with over 10 minutes left in the first half.
“So far we haven’t found the opportunity to make real big plays on offense,” Garrison explained, “the big yardage run or the long pass. That gets you fired up when you do that.” The special teams, however, did a great job.
The rest of the second quarter was a defensive battle, back and forth, with neither team able to put together a decent drive or get more than one first down, until the Longhorns managed to get within field goal range with less than a minute left before halftime. The attempt went wide to the left, however, and the Pirates were only able to get off two more plays before they ran out of time.
After the half, the Longhorn kickoff went into the end zone for an automatic touchback. According to CHSAA rules the runner is not allowed to run from the end zone; the play is whistled dead and the ball is brought out to the 20 yard line.
A series of short-yardage runs by Jeremiah Miller and Caden Hendersen brought the Pirates down to the Longhorn 39 yard line, but then a tackle in the backfield and a couple of incomplete passes stopped the Pirate drive and forced them to punt the ball away.
The Longhorns didn’t fare any better, however, and on third and long their quarterback was in the grasp of the defender and almost sacked on their own five yard line, but managed to throw the ball away before the referee blew the whistle on fourth and long and the Longhorns punted, which went all the way to the Pirate 37 yard line.
After an incomplete pass and a run for little or no yardage, Pirate quarterback Dean Scott ran on the option play and managed to pick up nine yards. Then Miller ran for a first down to the Longhorn 48 yard line, but a penalty, an incomplete pass and a scramble by Scott left the Pirates stuck at mid-field again with fourth down and long.
The rest of the third quarter continued in this manner, a defensive battle with very little ball movement, few first down conversions, and a number of penalties on both sides, and ended with the Longhorns in possession on the Pirate 42 yard line.
The first play of the fourth quarter saw the Longhorns run to the Pirate 30 yard line, and then the next play was a run all the way into the end zone. Luckily for the Pirates, however, the ball was called back for a holding penalty and the touchdown was no good.
The Pirates’ luck didn’t last long, though, and after a complete pass that brought the Longhorns back to the 30 yard line for third down and 11, the Longhorn quarterback connected a 31-yard pass into the end zone. The extra point was good, bringing the score to 10-7 with 10:40 left in the game.
“We let them have a big play on us near the end of the game that gave them the win,” Garrison said.
The Pirates responded by putting together their best drive of the game, taking the ball all the way from their own 20 to the Longhorn 30 yard line, with several good runs by quarterback Dean Scott on the option play. However, they were again stopped short, and once again went for the run on fourth and long instead of attempting to tie the game up with a field goal.
There was a penalty on the play, unsportsmanlike conduct against the Longhorns, but since it occurred after the play was already dead, the Longhorns still took possession of the ball before it was marched 15 yards closer to their own endzone.
The Longhorns went four downs and had to punt, and then the Pirates went four downs and went for it instead of punting, but were unable to get a first down so The Longhorns got the ball on the Pirates’ 25 yard line. Luckily, Dalton Madden was able to strip the ball from the runner’s grasp and the Pirates recovered the fumble with 54 seconds left in the game.
At this point the Pirates still had a chance, however slim, to march down the field and score, but on the next play Scott ran on the option play and fumbled. The Longhorns took possession of the ball and on the next snap their quarterback took a knee and the clock ran out, with a final score of Longhorns 10 and Pirates 7.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle the Pirates face is a thin squad, according to Garrison. “We are fighting an injury problem. We have had to play with guys that are definitely inexperienced. Also, I don’t want to go into a lot of detail, but we had two starters miss the entire game because they got in trouble with the school and got suspended, so they didn’t get to play. That hurt us quite a bit.”
Several Pirates play on both squads, offense and defense, and by the third quarter even the fans in the stands were able to tell that the players lacked energy and were starting to look tired.
“The team really appreciated the support of the crowd,” Garrison said, mentioning how full the bleachers were.
Next week the Pirates travel to New Castle, six hours one way on the bus and their second overnight trip of the season, to play the Coal Ridge Titans. The Titans have won their last three games and look to pose quite a challenge for the young Pirates.
“They’ve got a real good running game,” Garrison said. “They run a lot of offensive sets and try to confuse you. We’ll see what we can do. We need some good luck.”