Listed this week on the Colorado Preps “Teams to Watch” rankings (and gathering votes in the Denver Post Preps poll), the Pagosa Springs Pirates demonstrated last Saturday why they made the list, handing the 1A Tigers a 49-13 pounding in Del Norte.
The game began with a powerhouse Pirate offense that put points on the board early in the game. However, with the Tigers set to score minutes later at the 15-yard line, it was Pagosa’s defense that struck next. Blocking Del Norte’s field goal attempt, Tyson Ross took the loose ball back 85 yards for another Pirate touchdown.
“That’s what set the tone for the game with that touchdown,” said assistant coach Ryan Davis.
Head coach Olin Garrison agreed, also giving Ross credit on defense. “They gave us numerous opportunities and Tyson read the audibles very well, showing a tremendous amount of maturity,” Garrison said.
With the Pirates up 28-0 going into the second quarter, both the offense and defense stepped up, holding the Tigers to just six points in the half while allowing Pagosa to tally another 14 points to end the half with a 42-6 advantage.
Garrison said, “The offensive line did a really good job keeping them (the Tiger’s defense) out of Tyson’s face.”
After allowing his starters to play an initial series at the start of the second half, Garrison pulled his bigs to give JV players the opportunity to finish the rest of the game.
“The other guys got in there and did a really good job,” Garrison said.
Blanking the Tigers in the third while scoring another touchdown themselves, the Pirates went into the final quarter with a 49-6 lead. Although Del Norte managed to score again late in the fourth, the Pirate’s younger players held their ground and the game ended with a big, 49-13 victory for Pagosa.
“I saw some improvements after our game with Ignacio,” Garrison said. “We did a better job in some consistency in our blocking on the offensive line.”
Davis also said that the Pirate ground game, a concern in the preseason, has shown exceptional improvement.
“Jeremiah Miller (sophomore) is coming around,” Davis said. “He’s playing really well.”
Miller was credited with one touchdown and logged 76 yards rushing.
Aside from his first quarter touchdown on the blocked field goal and subsequent touchdown run back, Ross went eight for eight to pass for 180 yards as well as taking a kickoff return (during the second quarter) 95 yards for a touchdown.
Daniel Puskas went five for five on receptions for a total of 113 yards and three touchdowns to his credit.
On defense, Ross was credited with 12 tackles, while sophomore Creede Wylie logged three sacks.
Tomorrow night, the Pirates appear before their home crowd, hosting the Kirtland Central Broncos from New Mexico for Pagosa’s first serious challenge of the season. After falling 69-47 to the Broncos last season, the Pirates will again have to negotiate Kirtland Central’s superior size as well as this year’s seasoned offense.
Although the Pirates pretty much paced the Broncos for three quarters last year, Pagosa’s defense eventually lost steam, handing Kirtland Central the game in the final quarter. However, at 0-2 the Broncos appear to be struggling, especially on defense, having allowed a combined 100 points this season.
And it’s defense that Garrison sees as the key to a win tomorrow night. “The team that plays consistently on defense will be the team that wins,” Garrison said.
League play begins Sept. 23 when Pagosa hosts the Alamosa Mean Moose at Golden Peaks Stadium. After defeating the Mean Moose 46-27 last year in Alamosa, the Pirates hope to repeat that rout this year, given a home field advantage.
The Mean Moose took a 41-6 mercy rule loss last week at home to the top-ranked 2A Florence Huskies. Despite the loss, the Mean Moose field 11 seniors this year and promise to exhibit a more refined passing game from what they brought in last year’s game against the Pirates in Alamosa.
However it will be tomorrow’s game against the Broncos that will be the Pirates’ first real test of post-season potential.
Garrison said, “I think this is a really big game for us, especially for the younger kids appearing for their first time before a home crowd ... they could be a little nervous.
“If we win, it will create real momentum for us,” Garrison added.
Not only would a win potentially create momentum for the Pirates but it could (depending on the outcomes of other matches on Friday throughout state 2A) move the Pirates into top 10 rankings.
Although Garrison is not speaking of the rankings, he said that a win against Kirtland Central will go along way towards building confidence with his players — and with Pirate fans.
“I hope there’s a really big crowd out there on Friday night to encourage them on,” he said.
Kickoff time is 7 p.m. for Friday night’s game at Golden Peaks Stadium.