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Pirates battle hard in 37-34 loss to Alamosa

Displaying as much heart as talent, the 2A Pagosa Springs Pirates were still unable to overtake a strong 3A Alamosa Mean Moose team, losing 37-34 last Friday night at Golden Peaks Stadium.

In a heavily defensive first quarter, Alamosa managed to capitalize on a Pagosa fumble. Showing a formidable ground game, the Mean Moose managed to break through the Pirates’ defensive line, scoring the game’s first touchdown with five minutes, 21 seconds left in the quarter.

The Pirates came back early in the second quarter. Taking a fourth-and-goal gamble at the Alamosa 1-yard line, junior Dakota Miller took in Pagosa’s first score with 11:32 left in the half, tying the game at 6-6. Not two minutes later, the Pirates made good on a buffed Alamosa snap, scooping up the fumble and moving well within striking distance. Quarterback Taylor Shaffer sealed the deal, running the ball in from the Alamosa 3-yard line, giving Pagosa a 12-6 advantage with 9:25 left in the half.

Readjusting the defense, Alamosa held the Pirates to a ground game that stalled throughout most of the quarter. Taking a short rush into the end zone, the Mean Moose snatched away the Pirate lead with a successful two-point conversion — 12-14 with 7:38 left.

Making good on possession after a Pagosa punt, the Mean Moose took a 55-yard rush into the end zone with 3:40 left, expanding their lead to 21-12.

Down but not out, the Pirates brought their passing game back to life with two long passes from Shaffer to junior receiver Zach Lucero. A scoring run by Tyson Ross was called back on an illegal block, but Lucero reconciled the mistake, taking a short reception in for the touchdown with 1:43 left. An extra point by Ross sent the Pirates into the locker room down 19-21.

After the game, Coach Sean O’Donnell expressed some frustrations with the first half, saying, “We got outcoached, I’m taking the blame on this one. We weren’t prepared on defense. We tried a few things and couldn’t get it to work.”

Despite adjustments by the Pirate defense that found Alamosa chewing up turf, Alamosa was finally able to move the ball with 6:21 left in the third quarter, taking a 6-yard rush in for a touchdown, boosting the lead to 19-27.

Still, the Pirates managed to hold their ground and an Alamosa drive for another touchdown was shut down. However, an Alamosa field goal with 2:33 left in the third gave the Mean Moose a 30-19 lead.

Undaunted, the Pirates came back. A 45-yard reception by Jordan Caler was supplemented by an Alamosa penalty, giving the Pirates prime field position. A Shaffer handoff to Ross resulted in another touchdown with 1:33 left and, with an extra point good on a Ross kick, the Pirates ended the third quarter down 30-26.

Gambling on a fourth-and-goal possession, Alamosa demonstrated the effectiveness of its double-wing offense, rushing for the touchdown with 6:09 left, and boosting the lead to 37-26 on a successful extra-point kick.

The Pirates answered with some excellent passing by Shaffer. A 23-yard reception by Caler, an 8-yard reception by Lucero, and a pitch-perfect reception and rush by Ross had Pagosa closing in with just 3:43 left in the game. A successful 2-point conversion cut the deficit to 3 points, with the Pirates down 34-37, and the clock running.

An unsuccessful onside kick by the Pirates gave Alamosa good field position on their last possession but with Pagosa’s defense rising to the occasion, Alamosa was unable to capitalize. Still, stingy with the ball, the Pirates never got another possession in the quarter and the game ended with a Pirate loss.

“I’m proud of the guys,” O’Donnell said. “They played hard for four quarters. The kids never quit, they tried their hardest.”

The 2A Pirates again reach high when they host the 3A Montezuma-Cortez Panthers tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Golden Peaks Stadium. Going into the game with a 1-1 record, O’Donnell expressed confidence in his team’s chances against the 0-1 Panthers ,who haven’t played since their Aug. 28 loss to 2A Bayfield.

“They have a similar offense to ours, which puts our defense in a good position,” the coach said, “I think we have a good shot at them.”