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After seven straight loses the Pirates finally chalked one up in the win column last Friday night, triumphing 28-17 over the Gunnison Cowboys in front of their own crowd and in their own Cowboy Memorial Stadium.
“We won,” head coach Olin Garrison said in his typically understated manner. “We played pretty dang good at times. We had a few little lapses, but we recovered from them and kept on going.”
The Pirates took the opening kickoff on their own 28 yard line and marched it all the way down the field. On the second offensive play of the game Jeremiah Miller ran up the middle to the 39 for a first down, then Keith Archuleta took the next handoff up the right side across midfield into Cowboy territory to the 45 yard line.
After a couple short runs, quarterback Dean Scott faked a handoff, went back to pass, couldn’t find an open receiver, held on to the ball and ran it himself for a first down. Miller ran for another first down to the Cowboy 20.
An illegal motion penalty set the Pirates back a bit, but Archuleta found an opening and made it all the way to the 4 yard line. After a couple short runs, Miller punched it through the middle into the end zone, and the extra point kick by Marcos Quezada put the Pirates in the lead 7-0 with 7:13 left in the first quarter.
“We ran the ball real well,” Garrison explained. “Several of our backs had a good night.”
After an illegal procedure call against Pirate special teams on the kickoff, the Cowboys took over on their own 35 and began their drive, making it all the way across midfield to the 37 yard line before the Pirate defense stripped the ball from their runner’s hands and recovered the fumble.
The Pirates went four downs and had to punt, giving the Cowboys the ball on the 50, and by the end of the first quarter the ball was on the 6 yard line and the Cowboys had a first and goal to go. Two plays into the second quarter the Cowboys were able to run into the end zone and a good extra point kick tied the game 7-7 with 11:13 still left in the second quarter.
A cowboy kickoff into the end zone gave the Pirates a touchback out to the twenty, but on the next play Tate Drane made a 9-yard reception, and he had control of the ball just before he got hit, the ball was knocked loose and Drane was injured.
“We’ve got some injury problems,” Garrison explained in an interview afterwards. “We suffered some injuries in the game. Three of our starters probably won’t get to play against Bayfield this week.” Drane suffered a back contusion as a result of that hit, Cody Couch received a concussion at some point during the game, and Creede Wylie injured a foot during the next set of plays.
The Cowboys took over on the Pirate 30 yard line but were pushed back by the Pirate defense and were force to punt on fourth down and 12 from midfield. The kick was downed on the 1, giving the Pirates a deep hole to dig themselves out of, and Archuleta was actually tackled in the backfield for a loss of a half yard.
The situation was desperate when, on third down and 11 from inside the one, Scott held on to the ball and ran it down the sideline out past the 30 yard line, giving the Pirates some breathing room and some momentum.
Two more quarterback keepers brought the Pirates across midfield, but then a personal foul pushed the Pirates back 15 yards into their own territory, and gave them a first and 25. However, Archuleta was able to run back to the Cowboy 45, dragging three defenders with him. Then Scott connected one pass to Dalton Madden on the 26 and another to Cody Kimsey on a slant pattern across the middle to the 11 yard line.
We didn’t throw the ball a lot,” Garrison admitted, “but when we did we were successful.”
On the next play a fake handoff to Miller threw the Cowboy defense off and Scott was able to run it in himself on the right side. Quezada’s extra point kick made it 14-7 with 4:35 left in the first half.
The Cowboys took the kickoff but were unable to move the ball, punting on fourth down. Madden took the punt on his own 45 and ran it back 10 yards, giving the Pirate offense the ball in Cowboy territory with 3:26 left in the first half.
After three short runs, Scott broke two tackles and ran down to the Cowboy 8 yard line. Three more short runs, and then Caden Henderson ran it in from three yards out, and Quezada’s extra point kick brought the score up to 21-7 with 58 seconds left.
A good run and a chop-block penalty called against the Pirates gave the Cowboys the ball on the Pirate 44 yard line, with 53 seconds, plenty of time to score. A run to the 20, then a run to the 9 yard line gave the cowboys a first down and goal to go with 29 seconds left on the clock.
However, the Pirate defense kept the Cowboys out of the end zone for four downs, forcing them to kick a field goal for three points with 12 seconds left, making the score 21-10, and giving the Pirates time for one play before the half.
Scott took a knee.
The second half began with a Pirate kickoff to the 40 yard line and the Cowboys making it back down to the Pirate 11. From there a touchdown was called back on a penalty, then a fumble was recovered by the Pirates.
“Defensively, we forced some turnovers,” Garrison stated, “so that really helped.”
Archuleta ran to the 33, Scott to the 45, then a counter play up the middle put the Pirates across midfield. After a minor setback for a penalty, Scott completed a long pass up the middle to Kimsey on the 18. From there, Quezada ran it in for the touchdown and kicked the extra point, making it 28-10 with 7:53 left in the third quarter.
The Cowboys took the kickoff on their own 35, but the Pirate defense, with tackles by first Miller, then Scott (many Pirates play both offense and defense due to the team being so short-staffed) pushed the Cowboys back to the 25 before they were forced to punt on fourth down and 20.
The Pirates went four downs and had to punt as well, but this time the Cowboys received the ball and were able to make a couple of long runs and get into the end zone, closing in on the Pirate lead and making the score 28-17 with 2:59 left in the third quarter.
At this point, the game became a defensive battle, with neither team able to score for the rest of the third quarter and all through the fourth. Three players (Archuleta, David McRee and Slade Wylie) led the game on defense with seven tackles and one assist each.
Scott led the offense, with five pass completions out of 10 attempts for 60 yards total, and 12 carries for a total of 104 yards rushing.
“The kids really wanted a win,” Garrison said. “They were pretty happy, and I was very happy for them, because it has been a rough year. I’m proud of them for staying in there and continuing to fight. I have to pat them on the back. They hung in there and did a good job.”
The Pirates’ final game of the season will be against the Bayfield Wolverines tomorrow night at Golden Peaks Stadium. Ranked sixth in the state in the 2A division, the Wolverines are a tough team, with eight straight victories and no losses this season.
“On paper it doesn’t look very good,” Garrison admitted, “but we were telling our kids they’ve got to go out and play with a lot of heart and desire. You never know about a football game. Things can happen and turn your way. You just go out and do the best you can.”