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Pirates eke out 14-3 Homecoming victory

Last week, Pirate head coach Olin Garrison told The SUN that he was a little nervous regarding his football team’s ability to keep their focus during homecoming week, and especially during their homecoming game.

Garrison’s concern over homecoming week was warranted, as the Pirates barely squeaked by the 1-4 Salida Spartans 14-3 in arguably the most unfocused game the Pirates have played all season.

“We weren’t in sync, offensively,” Garrison said. “Every once in awhile we’d look okay and then we’d shoot ourselves in the foot.”

The fact that the Pirates held the Spartans to just a field goal is a testament to a superb defense that has held opponents to less than 40 points total this season.

Garrison said, “Defensively we did pretty good, offensively we were off through most of the game, which is weird, since most of our guys who play defense also play offense.”

Following Friday’s performance, the Pirates held their fifth-place ranking in the Denver Post Preps poll, but dropped one slot to sixth place in the Colorado Preps poll, specifically because, “(T)he Pirates struggled a bit in a 14-3 win over Salida.”

In fact, it was Salida who got out to an early lead. After quarterback Tyson Ross was picked off during the Pirates’ maiden drive, the Demons stalled at the Pagosa 25 yard line. Looking at a fourth and three situation, coach Phil Gardunio put McKinnley Witty (the first female to play for the Spartans) in to give Salida a 3-0 lead on a 33-yard field goal.

With Ross exhibiting an off night in the air, the Pirates chewed up short yards on the ground throughout the remainder of the first quarter, with Ross scoring a TD on the keeper at the buzzer.

The next two quarters found the Pirate defense consistently offering Pagosa’s offense numerous second chances, only to have the offense fail to deliver. Finally, with 6:28 left in the game, Ross connected with Daniel Puskas for one of the Pirate’s few completions of the game, the 23-yard reception good for the second Pirate TD of the game.

Unfortunately, during the successful PAT that gave the Pirates a 14-3 lead, a Salida player took a cheap and dirty shot at a Pagosa player, leading to a major scuffle on the field and no less than four unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on the play.

“It’s being addressed,” Garrison said, regarding the behavior of the Demon’s player. “It’s a shame it happened.”

Despite emotions running high with both teams, the remainder of the fourth quarter ground down to a stalemate and a sloppy 14-3 victory for Pagosa Springs.

Garrison said, “When you’re not playing your best game and you still win, that’s saying something. It means you’re doing pretty good.”

Garrison said he knows that his team will have to step up to their best game when they travel to Buena Vista tomorrow to challenge the Demons on their home turf.

Despite a 3-2 record and a 21-3 loss to the Wolverines in Bayfield last Friday, the Demons retain fairly good odds for spoiling the Pirate’s chance for a post-season appearance.

“They have some good people on that team and we’ll have to watch out for them,” Garrison said.

Averaging almost 280 yards rushing per game, the Demons obviously have some powerhouse players in the backfield. In fact, senior running back Dakota Johnson and junior fullback Koby Close (who suited up as a Pirate last year) have logged some impressive numbers this season, with Johnson holding the third highest yards-per-attempt percentage in state 2A rushing. Meanwhile, senior Cody Troudt returns to lead an offense that overpowered the Pirates during last year’s 30-26 Homecoming loss to the Demons.

Although the Demons’ defense looks tougher than Pagosa’s on several numbers (62.5 tackles and 2.8 sacks per game compared to Pagosa’s 25.3 and 1.8), they have allowed 88 points this season — 17.6 per game compared with just 8 points per game allowed by the Pirates.

Needless to say, tomorrow’s game against the Demons will be the Pirates’ first serious challenge of the season, facing a team that has a history of having a good football program, as well as an offense and defense filled with seasoned players. With three serious contenders vying for dominance in the Mountain league — Pagosa Springs, Buena Vista and Bayfield — tomorrow night’s game should not lack any excitement.

In other Mountain League action last Friday, the Alamosa Mean Moose earned their first win of the season, defeating formerly 10th-ranked The Academy Wildcats (Westminster, Colo.) 28-27 at home. Also at home on Friday, the 2-2 Centauri Falcons defeated the 1-4 Montezuma-Cortez Panthers (whom the Pirates will host next week) 14-7, with the Falcons improving to 3-2 and the Panthers at 1-5 for the season.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. for the Pirates’ game in Buena Vista.

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