HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Bronchos close to playoff spot with undefeated Midland High looming

After going winless last year in District 2-6A play, the Odessa High football team is now just one victory away from a playoff spot.

One victory from the next three weeks is all the Bronchos will need to end their 10-year playoff drought.

It won’t be easy as Odessa High Coach Dusty Ortiz and his players know that nothing is guaranteed, especially in the obstacle that is District 2-6A.

Standing in the Bronchos’ way this week is another surprise team from 2-6A in undefeated Midland High in a 7 p.m. contest Friday at Astound Broadband Stadium in Midland.

The Bulldogs (coached by former Permian offensive coordinator Thad Fortune) enters this week’s contest at 7-0 overall, 2-0 in district play while the Bronchos are 5-1, 2-0.

“The kids and the coaches have done a fabulous job of getting us here,” Ortiz said. “They’ve done what it takes to start district off on a good note, being 2-0. I think every week, this district is tough. Every week is a dog fight. There are some good teams in this district and Midland High is one of them. We’re happy to be here. We’re glad that we can accomplish some of the goals that we set forth. But we still have some bigger goals.”

>> FROM BOTTOM TO TOP: The Bulldogs and the Bronchos both finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in last year’s 2-6A standings.

Suddenly, both teams are one victory away from clinching a spot in the postseason.

Midland High is coming off a 38-28 win over Wolfforth Frenship last week on the road while Odessa High needed overtime to defeat San Angelo Central, 71-70 at Ratliff Stadium.

The Bulldogs’ other district win came in a 45-27 victory over San Angelo Central on Oct. 5.

Part of the reason for Midland High’s turnaround this season has been the Bulldogs’ explosive offense.

“Coach Fortune does a great job with those kids,” Ortiz said. “They’ve really bought into the system that they run, offensively and defensively. His offense is all about discipline and execution and being content with three or four yards at a time and then all of a sudden, they break off for 70 yards. They’re really good at what they do. The opponents’ defense has to be really disciplined. You have to know what your responsibility is on the option because if you don’t, you’re going to get burned. I’ve watched a ton of film on them. Their kids execute at a really high level. They’re really good at what they do.”

>> WHERE’S THE DEFENSE?: The Bronchos know that if they want to get to the playoffs, their defense is going to have to come through in the next three games.

Ortiz and his players have been busy looking back at game film from last week’s high-scoring affair against the Bobcats in which the Bronchos won on a two-point conversion attempt in overtime by a run from quarterback Mikey Cota.

“We watched the film from the game and we missed a lot of tackles,” Ortiz said. “That was the most noticeable thing about us last Friday. I think we had 40 missed tackles and you’re not going to play good defense if you can’t tackle. That’s part of the whole the strategy of being a good tackling team. There are things that we have to do better on. Tackling is one of them. We have to bring a level of physicality to the game because Midland High is very physical. We talked about that with the team. We have to be disciplined just like they are. … We have to be more physical and disciplined and keep up the intensity.”

>> WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH… Still, when things started to look bleak for the Bronchos in last week’s contest, Odessa High did what it has done so many times already this season.

The Bronchos fought back and won.

Trailing by 22 points in the third quarter, Odessa High’s offense managed to get back up and running.

A Jalen Warren touchdown reception with 8:50 in the game tied everything up at 56.

Warren (who finished the game with five touchdown receptions) scored from 40 yards out in overtime before Cota’s game-clinching two-point conversion.

The Bronchos also erased a 14-point deficit against Permian the week before in Odessa High’s 49-42 overtime win and came back from 22 points down against Amarillo High in a 36-35 win in nondistrict play back in September.

“With our offense, I think what I’ve noticed is that they keep on playing,” Ortiz said. “They have a lot of fun. Overall, what I’ve talked about (with) our team is that we’re built around our offense. They’ve proved it week in and week out. They’re very explosive at times. There are three components of it which is our skill players. Our offensive line, which has been together for all four years except for one and they’re a tight-knit group. Then you have the QB position. We knew what we were getting with Mikey this year and he hasn’t disappointed. He’s a competitor and a fighter. Anytime he has the ball in his hands, something special happens.”

Odessa High at Midland High

>> When: 7 p.m. Friday

>> Where: Astound Broadband Stadium, Midland

>> Last season: Midland High 41, Odessa High 31

>> Records: Odessa High 5-1 overall, 2-0 in District 2-6A; Midland High 7-0, 2-0