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Pagosa defeats Ignacio 31-14 to open season

It was the quintessential opening game, plagued by dropped balls, buffed plays, miscues and, at times, chaos. And although the Pirates finished their home and season opener with a definitive 31-14 victory over the 1A Ignacio Bobcats, Coach Sean O’Donnell will surely review game films with gritted teeth, planning for remedial drills meant to turn a team that appeared barely prepared for the early season into a post-season powerhouse.

“It looked like a Zero Week game, a lot of mistakes,” O’Donnell said, “kind of first game stuff that you deal with, and I’m not too concerned, but there’s certainly problems we need to address.”

In fact, the first quarter looked as though Ignacio would hold the edge behind the fleet rushing of quarterback Ryan Brooks. Capitalizing on the Pirates inability to gain ground (largely due to continued problems in the backfield), Brooks moved the Bobcats to a first-and-goal sweet spot with seven minutes, 39 seconds to go in the quarter, rushing in for the first score of the game at 7:12 to put Ignacio up 6-0.

It looked as though the Pirates would get immediate revenge when, after taking Ignacio’s kick and displaying some quick razzle-dazzle, Zach Lucero ran the ball into the Bobcat’s end zone — only to have the play called back on an illegal block call.

The first quarter wound down as a comedy of errors, with no more points on the board. With a Pirate defense giving the Bobcats ample opportunities to score again, Ignacio answered with numerous bad snaps and miscues that prevented any shot at a decent drive down field.

With a new period, the Pirates regained their game, converting a late first quarter Ignacio punt into an early second quarter drive, the rushing game of Dakota Miller and Tyson Ross finally put some Pirate points on the board when Ross rushed four yards over the Bobcat’s goal line, giving Pagosa a 7-6 lead.

Ignacio, plagued by an inability to take a snap and harassed by a reinvigorated Pirate defense, stalled for pretty much the rest of the game. After Brooks took a huge third and two sack at the hands of Will Appenzeller and Preston Sandoval, the Bobcats punted on fourth and 13 situation. Quickly grabbing the momentum, Ross delivered a beautiful pass to Daniel Puskas for a 71-yard reception with 5:38 left in the half, boosting the Pirates lead to 14-6.

Minutes later, the Pirate defense delivered again when Max Miller forced a Brooks fumble that was scooped up by Ross for a 43-yard run. Ross scored on the next play with a pass to Mason Laverty, widening the Pirate’s lead 22-6 after a two-point conversion with 2:53 to go before halftime.

Unable to grab the onside kick, Pagosa took one more swat from the Bobcats when Ignacio’s Jefferey Herrera, ran solo down field and without a single Pirate defender to be seen in the vicinity, took a Brooks lob all the way to the six-yard line, setting up a Brooks TD rush on the next play, closing the gap at 22-14 with 2:25 to go.

Unwilling to head to the locker room without an answer, Zach Lucero took a 22-yard pass from Ross in the half’s closing moments, setting up a first and goal situation on the six yard-line, finished up with :39 left in the half with a Ross rush and a 29-14 lead.

The second half saw a defensive battle with neither offense making any ground. In fact, after another sack (for 10 yards) by Laverty early in the fourth quarter, Ignacio’s Brooks was taken down in the end zone by Clay Ross for a safety — the final score of the game, cinching up the Pirate’s 31-14 win.

Despite a 17-point spread, it was clear last Saturday night that the Pirates have some rough edges on their sword in need of some sharpening.

“We struggled early, but we were able to come back,” O’Donnell said, adding, “We’re really trying to improve on the mistakes we made, better communication — we had some communication breakdowns out there.”

Fortunately, the Pirates host the 1A Del Norte Tigers tomorrow night at 7 p.m. on their home turf in Golden Peaks stadium. Lacking depth and middling at best on returning seniors, the Tigers should give the Pirates an opportunity to hone their blade in time for three straight road games against bigger, better teams than the opponents faced by Pagosa in their first two games.

Avast mateys ... rough seas ahead.

jim@pagosasun.com