The Pirate football team came out of the halfway point in its four-game road tour with an easy win, shutting out the 1A Bears 35-0 in Dolores last Friday.
When asked if the team exhibited an increased physicality against the Bears (a stated concern regarding last week’s 69-47 loss against Kirtland Central), Coach Sean O’Donnell replied, “Definitely. The boys really stepped up when the call came.”
After a scoreless defensive battle in the first quarter, the Pirates found their offensive spark in the second when Tyson Ross rushed one yard for a touchdown and put another two points on the board with a conversion. With the Pirate defense pinning the Bears down out of scoring range, Pagosa capitalized on a strong ground game with an all rushing drive. With an eight-yard run by Dakota Miller and an extra point kicked by Ross, the Pirates left the half with a 15-0 lead.
The Pirates exploded in the second half, scoring 20 more points in the third quarter. Miller took a 21-yard rush into the end zone and, with another extra point good, the Pirates were up 22-0 early in the third.
That newfound confidence on the ground and a vastly improved dedication to a more physical brand of football was what O’Donnell was looking for after last week’s loss.
“That was kind of the turning point for us,” O’Donnell said, regarding his team’s rushing performance (specifically, the late second quarter drive). “We got control of the line of scrimmage.”
With that confidence nailed down, the Pirates took to the air. Ross placed the ball squarely in the hands of Zach Lucero for a 65-yard reception and, with another extra point, put the Pirates up 29-0. Minutes later, Daniel Puskas took a 39-yard pass across the goal line, sealing the Bear’s demise.
After a tight defensive battle in the fourth, bookending the first quarter (but with more backup players on the field), the Pirates finished with a 35-0 victory and a 3-1 season record.
“We had some good athletes make some good plays,” O’Donnell said. “I felt like we played the best game of the season, thus far.”
Pleased with a tougher, more physical team, O’Donnell added, “Our defensive effort was outstanding. We’re not completely there yet, but we’re moving in the right direction.”
Tomorrow night, the Pirates will be in Alamosa to face the 1-2 Mean Moose for the first time in conference play (Alamosa having been added to the 2A Mountain league this year). Barely losing to Alamosa 34-37 last year at Golden Peaks Stadium, the Pirates will be looking for revenge against a team that holds a slight size advantage along with an unusual style of offensive play.
However, the fact that the Mean Moose are now conference opponents adds another dimension to tomorrow night’s match.
“The sense of urgency is a lot higher than it’s been in previous years,” O’Donnell said, pointing out that a game against Alamosa now counts towards the Pirate’s playoff chances. “I hope our kids are up for the challenge.”
Finishing up their long road trip in Salida on Oct. 1, the Pirates will play their second conference game against the 3-1 Spartans. While Salida lost soundly to the Pirates (46-18) last year with the “mercy rule” running through most of the second half of that game (and the Pirate JV playing a good portion of the game), the Spartans will be looking for a payback this year.
The Pirates return to Golden Peaks stadium on Oct. 8 for their homecoming match against the Buena Vista Demons, a team Pagosa trounced 50-14 last year on Demon turf.
However, while the Pirates made quick work of Salida and Buena Vista last season, O’Donnell was unwilling to declare either team an easy path to the postseason for the Pirates.
“Both teams have a lot of returning players and we’re not playing any easy games this season. The rest of the season is going to be a real test.
“You can throw out last year because this is a completely different league this year.”