The Pirates will be facing a long road trip to Denver this Saturday following a 35-14 loss to the Bayfield Wolverines last Friday.
Dropping to 7-2 for the season, Pagosa Springs still qualified for post-season play as the 14th-seeded team in the state 2A football bracket. On Saturday, the Pirates will face the third-ranked Kent Denver Sun Devils.
“I was totally pleased with the kids for three quarters of football,” said head coach Olin Garrison. “Not so much for one quarter.”
Strictly speaking, the Pirates never looked to take the lead. After falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter, the Pirates mounted a 95-yard drive that culminated with a touchdown yard by quarterback Tyson Ross.
However, a chance to tie the game early in the third quarter was lost when Ross fumbled at the 10-yard line after a forceful Wolverine hit. Ross chased the Bayfield defender 85 yards and managed to knock the ball loose, recovering the fumble at Pagosa’s 2-yard line.
Bayfield responded with three more touchdowns in the quarter.
The Pirates managed to score one more touchdown late in the third when Ross connected on 15-yard pass to Daniel Puskas to make it a 28-14 game. However, a 59-yard punt return by Bayfield’s TJ Pazell early in the fourth resulted in the Wolverines’ final score and a 35-14 victory.
Fullback Clay Ross had an outstanding game for the Pirates, logging 67 rushing yards and 72 yards receiving.
“He’s really turned on the steam during the last half of the season,” said Pirate assistant coach Ryan Davis.
Saturday’s game begins at 1 p.m. If the Pirates can defeat the Sun Devils, the Pirates will face the winner of Saturday’s game between the sixth-ranked Faith Christian Eagles and the 11th-ranked Platte Valley Broncos.
Regarding Saturday’s match against the Sun Devils, Davis said, “The whole team is pumped. We’ve watched the films and they’re beatable.”
However, Garrison said he recognizes the challenges presented by the long drive up to Denver, facing a solid program at Kent Denver.
“They have some pretty good athletes who can break through and turn a game around,” Garrison said. “We have to do a good job trying to contain them.”
The Pirates are surely hoping that history repeats itself: the Sun Devils lost 27-7 in 1993 in Pagosa Springs during that year’s second round of playoff action (the Pirates lost 21-7 the next week against the Wray Buccaneers, that year’s state champions).
Having lost to Brush in the semifinals last year, the Sun Devils will be making their fifth straight post-season appearance on Saturday. With two state titles to their credit (and an overall 30-22 playoff record), Kent Denver is well acquainted with post-season play. For the past three years, the Sun Devils have made it past the first round.
For the Pirates’ part, Pagosa Springs has never won a state football title; the closest was a second-place finish in 1959 when the Pirates lost 85-0 to Limon (the state’s record holder with 18 championships and six consecutive state titles).
Making their fourth playoff appearance in the last five years (the Pirates missed out last season), Pagosa has an overall 13-23 post-season record. The last playoff win the Pirates had was a 40-7 victory in 2008 over the Manitou Springs Mustangs — their first playoff win since 2002.
No matter the results on Saturday (or, with a little luck, on following Saturdays), Garrison said he has been pleased how his team shaped up in 2011.
“We had a pretty young team, with some inexperienced players,” Garrison said. “Overall, I think it’s been a good year. They came together as a team and did a pretty good job this season.”