PUEBLO – In seemingly an impossible game to win, the improbable happened for the Pueblo East football team.
The Eagles, the No. 16 seed in the Class 3A state playoffs, shocked top-seeded Discovery Canyon 47-13 in a first-round game on Nov. 9 at District 20 Stadium in Colorado Springs.
“I think the key to the game was just us playing physical,” veteran East coach David Ramirez said. “I thought our guys really stepped up to the plate. They hammered us the first we played them, and we were a whole different team this time we played them. Part of that was due to injuries and part was us just finding our identity. It was a huge win for us.”
East ran its record to 7-4 overall and avenged a 49-28 home loss to Discovery Canyon on Aug. 30.
“We came out with a chip on our shoulder from the very first play,” said sophomore East middle/outside linebacker Bruno DeRose, who has a team-best 94 tackles. “We were ready to go and they didn’t expect it. We knew we were a lot better than a No. 16 seed, and we all did what we were supposed to do and it worked out great.”
After a scoreless first quarter, the Eagles came alive in the second, scoring 28 points before half to grab a 28-7 intermission lead.
Sophomore East quarterback Daniel Martin fueled the barrage. Martin scored three second-quarter touchdown to give the Eagles a comfortable advantage. Martin finished the game with 28 carries for 151 yards.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Martin, who transferred from Trinidad to East this fall when his family relocated. “We just executed well, and once we gained the momentum we never gave it up.”
Martin’s numbers were even more impressive considering the playoff game was only his sixth start under center for the Eagles. The 5-foot-9, 155-pound Martin was thrust into action when senior quarterback Kurt Rode suffered a season-ending leg injury in a 14-0 loss at Coronado Sept. 21.
“Danny’s a competitor, and he lays it on the line every play,” Ramirez said. “He’s a team-first kind of guy and the guys around have taken it upon themselves to step up their game as well.”
East limited the high-powered Thunder offense to 116 yards passing and only 93 yards rushing. They also had two interceptions, one which the Eagles’ Kevin Ribarich returned 42 yards for a touchdown. The first time East faced Discovery Canyon the Thunder had 140 yards passing and 349 yards rushing.
East defensive lineman Donny Garcia also blocked a field goal and a punt by the Thunder.
“We didn’t even know if we were going to the make the playoffs,” East senior receiver/cornerback Alex Mestas said. “Our coaches told us to work our butts off the last few games and control what we could control. When we were selected as the No. 16 seed we were excited and we got prepared and knew we could stop them (Discovery Canyon).”
A year ago, East advanced to the Class 3A semifinals before getting clubbed by Rifle 56-6 at Dutch Clark Stadium.
The upset-minded Eagles will try to continue their march to the school’s first state football title when they take on No. 9 seed Silver Creek (8-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday in Longmont. The Raptors, who are the defending state champs, crushed No. 8 seed Evergreen 47-14 in the first round.
“We have really leaned on our defense the last few weeks and our offense is catching up,” Ramirez said. “This week we just need to set the tone physically again. These guys are good and there’s a reason why they have been in the state finals the last two years and won one state championship. They don’t make a lot of mistakes so we are going to have to play sound football and really get after them on the defensive side of the ball.”
DeRose concurred with his coach.
“We still have that chip on our shoulder and we know we are capable of a lot of things if we just play together as a team,” said the 6-foot, 200-pound DeRose who also plays fullback.