By Randi Pierce
With 39 seconds left on the clock on Oct. 14 in Cortez, the Pagosa Springs High School Pirate football team coordinated to score their fifth touchdown of the game and an extra point, putting them ahead 35-34 and securing their upset of the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers.
The come-from-behind win means the Pirates are now 2-5 on the season and 1-1 in league play.
The Panthers are now 6-2 on the season and 2-1 league play.
“The kids played well. They stayed in the fight. We played four quarters,” coach Nathan Morales said.
The Pirates found themselves down early in the game.
“They kicked the ball off and they pooched it and we weren’t able to get on the ball, so they got the ball right away, and then they went down and scored,” Morales said.
The first Panther touchdown was scored with 11:08 left on the clock in the first quarter.
The Panthers’ second touchdown came on a 7-yard run with 4:36 left on the clock in the first.
Then, with 31 seconds left in the quarter, Pagosa’s Harley Armijo scored on an 11-yard pass and the Pirates scored on an extra-point attempt to make the score 14-7.
Cortez picked up another 13 points in the second quarter, on a 17-yard run and on a 91-yard run that followed a Pirate fumble.
“We fumbled twice inside the 10-yard line, once in the first half, once in the second half,” Morales said, noting the fumble in the first half threw the Pirates off “schedule.”
Cortez held a 27-7 lead at halftime, but the coach indicated he could tell the Pirates weren’t done.
“At halftime, when I went in there, I could almost tell … we were going to … grind it out,” Morales said, adding the team knew they could keep holding the Panthers back and running the ball.
Pagosa picked up 21 points in the third quarter while limiting the Panthers to seven.
Pagosa’s first touchdown of the third quarter came on a 1-yard run by Aaron Aucoin with 6:15 left in the quarter.
It was then countered by a Panther touchdown on a 38-yard run.
Pagosa turned around and scored two more touchdowns in the final five minutes of the quarter.
The first was scored on a 57-yard run, with the second coming off a 52-yard run, both scored by Colton Lucero.
The Pirates entered the fourth quarter on the losing end of a 34-28 score, and that looked to be the final score as the game wound down.
But, with 39 seconds left on the clock, Aucoin scored on a 1-yard run to tie the game. Chandler Mazur followed it up with his fifth successful extra-point attempt of the night to give the Pirates the lead.
“It’s pretty impressive for, you know, down 27-7 at half and being able to just have that grit and fight in us, knowing we want to get after it and win this game,” Morales said.
He indicated later the team played hard until the end without focusing on the scoreboard and had a mindset that they’d win.
He added the team is approaching every game as if it’s a playoff game.
“I think we’ve grown a lot as a team. We have a lot of leaders right now that are just doing the right thing, saying the right thing, and we’re still the physical football team we’ve been all year,” he said.
Morales noted Cortez was able to score off of trick plays in the game despite the Pirates’ practicing them, but that the Pirates’ defense as a whole played really well.
“I thought we freakin’ swarmed on defense, which was a plus for us because they do a lot of things that, if we don’t have guys swarming the ball, it’s hard to stop. So, that was very encouraging,” he said.
He also highlighted the linebackers, defensive backs and offensive line.
“Offensively, our effort and execution, and toughness, too, really showed,” he said.
Aucoin completed nine of 16 pass attempts in the game for a total of 154 yards, which included one touchdown. He threw one interception.
Lucero picked up 134 yards on 15 carries, while Aucoin picked up 97 yards on 16 carries, Gavin Lindahl notched 37 yards on eight carries and Colt Lewis had one carry for 4 yards.
Armijo had three receptions in the game for 49 yards and one touchdown. Lewis logged 46 yards on two receptions. Seth Aucoin followed with 41 yards on two receptions, and Blake Laner had 15 yards on one reception.
The team had 78 total tackles in the game, including 50 solo tackles.
The Pirates were led in tackles by Armijo, who had nine solo tackles, two assists and two tackles for loss. Heath Fulbright had nine tackles, including three solo and six assists. Conner Kelly had eight tackles — five solo and three assists.
Aaron Aucoin kicked off six times for 199 yards and punted three times for 126 yards.
Lewis had two kickoff returns for a total of 20 yards, and Creede Dozier had one punt return for 2 yards.
Aaron Aucoin was also honored at the state level this week, with the MileHigh Prep Report naming him as one of its players for the week for his 154 yards passing, 97 yards rushing and three total touchdowns.
This week, the Pirates will host the Salida Spartans at 7 p.m. Friday at Golden Peaks Stadium for their homecoming game.
The Spartans are 4-4 on the season and 1-2 in league play.
“We’re excited to be home,” Morales said.
Delta continues to lead League 5 with a 2-0 league record and 7-0 overall mark. The Panthers sit in second, followed by the Pirates in third, Salida in fourth and Bayfield in fifth with an 0-2 league record and 0-7 overall mark.