Wet, tired and working hard, Odessa High’s James Lujan was looking for any way to help keep Abilene Cooper out of the end zone as time was running out in last week’s District 2-5A game at Shotwell Stadium.
The Bronchos trailed 40-2 as Abilene Cooper quarterback Denver Gravitt went back to pass and quickly fired downfield into traffic at the Bronchos’ 6-yard line — right into Lujan’s hands.
“I looked down and there it was,” he said. “I was surprised because he (Gravitt) threw it behind the receiver and right to me.”
It took several heartbeats before Lujan began making his way up the right sideline, finally getting tackled at Odessa High’s 40 for a 34-yard return while giving the OHS defense a much-needed boost of confidence.
That confidence held the rest of the way through two more Cougars’ possessions, giving the Bronchos (0-5 overall, 0-3 district) something to build on heading into this week’s game when they face Midland Lee (3-1, 2-0) at 7:30 tonight at Ratliff Stadium.
Lujan knows that the Bronchos are in for another test.
“They have a good football team and they like to run the ball a lot,” said Lujan, a two-year starter at cornerback. “We’ve done OK stopping the run this year; it’s been stopping the pass that has been a problem for us.”
Perhaps the biggest issue for the OHS secondary this year has been the lack of experience, along with some personnel changes that needed to be made, that have kept the unit in a learning mode.
One of the constants has been Lujan, who was thrust into a starting role last year when injuries forced the move of Austin Tavarez to safety.
That gave Lujan his chance and he’s continued to learn each week.
“James is a hard worker and comes prepared each day,” OHS head coach Ron King said. “We stuck him in there last year in a pinch and he’s continued to improve and has things he can still improve on to get better.
“We’ve had some turnover in the secondary this year, but it’s settled down now. I thought the defense, as a whole, did a good job against Cooper last week and now it has to build on that and James is a big part of that.”
Lujan also wants to be a big part of a comeback this season for Odessa High in the District 2-5A playoff picture.
With just five games remaining, all district matchups, the senior is looking for the Bronchos to turn things around and put themselves in position to battle for one of 2-5A’s four postseason berths.
“We have a good team and we are getting better each week,” Lujan said. “We still need to put everything together on the same night; listen to what our coaches are telling us to do and then go out and to it.
“I think we have a team capable of winning four or five of the remaining games on the schedule. But we have to start holding teams out of the end zone and then letting our offense score.”