Pirates unable to recover from Bulldogs' second half scoring surge

Olathe quarterback Gavin Hall looks to pass during a game against Hotchkiss at Olathe High School on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. 

With around three minutes left in the first half between conference rivals Olathe and No. 6 Hotchkiss, a pair of top 1A teams, the game was scoreless. Both defenses were playing with confidence, bulldozing offensive lines and reaching the ball carrier before any running room could be had.

But six plays and 40 seconds later, the Bulldogs scored on a 7-yard run by running back Mordecai White. The score was 7-0 Hotchkiss with 2:21 remaining.

One play into the Pirates’ ensuing drive, quarterback Gavin Hall was intercepted by Blaine Peebles, and three plays later, Hotchkiss quarterback Yahir Chavez scored on a QB sneak.

Next series, the Pirates, after a 2-yard run, fumbled a play later, recovered by the Bulldogs’ Drayden Taylor. After working to the Pirates’ 10 with 5.6 seconds remaining, Chavez delivered an off-balance toss to Robert Cochran for a 10-yard touchdown pass to give Hotchkiss a 21-0 lead before the end of the half.

The disastrous sequence led to a forgetful night for the Pirates as the Bulldogs scored 21 second half points to pick up the 42-0 road victory.

“First half, we played 21 minutes of championship football,” Olathe coach Ryan Corn said, “and then, we got pinned, got some things that didn’t go our way, got our heads down and unfortunately shot ourselves in the foot way too often.

“When you give up 14 points in the last minute because of errors on our side, that’s pretty tough to swallow because up to that point, we were fighting. We were in that game.”

The Hotchkiss defensive line didn’t give Olathe much chance to get the offense going. Through two quarters, the Pirates had 14 yards of total offense, and were limited by a pair of penalties and two crucial turnovers. Hotchkiss came into the contest 3-0 and had limited opponents to 22 points through 12 quarters.

The shutout of Olathe was the team’s second of the season after shutting out Dolores in the season opener.

“When you face tough teams like Hotchkiss and the rest of them, you’ve got to really take advantage of those opportunities,” Corn said. “In tight games, it’s a hard thing to do a lot of times, but we got to take advantage when we get those sets.”

The Pirates also had trouble avoiding the dreaded 4th and long situations. The team went three-and-out on their first five offensive drives. The trend continued on their first two possessions in the second half, and didn’t convert a first down until the start of the fourth quarter on a 9-yard pass from Hall to senior Austin Arnold.

Olathe’s best drive came on their last possession of the game, where they picked up 47 yards, including a pair of tough runs from junior Jerrel Vigil, which was more than the team had picked up through 44 minutes of play (32 yards).

“Their size, they’re a big team,” Corn said. “With our size, we’ve got to get to blocks and take advantage of little things. But it’s hard when you’ve got someone bigger than you that way. With what they do, they’re very aggressive and we just couldn’t get our footing all night.”

The Hotchkiss offense began the wear down on their second possession of the third quarter. One play into the drive at their own 45, Taylor broke a tackle and darted his way to the end zone for a 55-yard touchdown run. It was Taylor’s (12 carries, 113 yards) lone score of the game — he had 61 yards on eight carries prior to Friday’s game — and he was joined by fellow backmate White, who also scored and had an interception, but wasn’t as effective (14 carries, 54 yards).

Chavez showed some effectiveness in the passing game, but was forced into some errors. Pirates cornerback Dimitri Prisbrey intercepted Chavez with a leaping grab at the 10-yard line for Olathe and swatted a pair of downfield passes. But Chavez connected with Cochran for score and found some running room on keepers (8 rushes, 35 yards).

A late Hall interception in the fourth led to a nine play drive for the Bulldogs, one Traycer Hall finished off with a 5-yard touchdown run.

Now 2-2 on the season, the Pirates are in danger of being out of consideration for a playoff spot. With a shortened playoff bracket — eight qualifying teams — next weekend’s matchup against 3-1 Meeker will be all the more important.

“Our backs are against the wall at this point,” Corn said. “We’ve got to win out and we’ve got to win out convincingly because I think the coach’s poll is going to be more important than anything else.

“This was a tough loss but come Monday, we’re going to start working again.”

Game notes:

• The Pirates have scored 88 points on the road and just 12 at home, failing to add to that mark in Friday’s loss. But Olathe played a competitive team in Cedaredge and a top 10 team in Hotchkiss at home compared to Trinidad and Paonia on the road who have combined to go 0-5 as of Friday. “We’ve had two tough teams at home, and another tough team next week at home,” Corn said.

• Olathe quarterback Gavin Hall was 6 of 16 for 36 yards and two interceptions, but had little time to throw Friday night against a swarming Hotchkiss defense that consistently came with pressure. Running back Wyatt Mansker had 9 yards on 7 carries while Vigil led the Pirates with 32 yards on four carries.

• Olathe was ranked just outside the top 10 in 1A this past week. The Pirates received seven votes, the most of any team not ranked in the top 10.

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

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