Despite coming up short of advancing to the playoffs, head coach Dusty Ortiz and the Odessa High football team still had plenty of reasons to be excited about during the 2023 season.
The Bronchos, who ended the season 5-4 overall, 2-3 in district, posted their best season in five years.
It wouldn’t be enough for Odessa High to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
The Bronchos were dealt a 32-21 loss to Midland Legacy last Friday at Ratliff Stadium in a chaotic final week for District 2-6A in which Odessa High could’ve finished in the top four, even with the loss.
Permian’s 21-14 win over Midland High ended up making the difference as Odessa High became the odd team out to finish fifth.
Permian, Midland High and Wolfforth Frenship all finished 3-2 in district to clinch playoff spots.
Still, the Bronchos’ 2023 campaign came just one year after the team suffered through a rough 2022 season, going 3-7, 0-5 to finish winless in 2-6A and three years after a winless 2020 season.
Odessa High’s five wins were the most since 2018 when the team that year went 5-5, 1-4.
Because of the second half being canceled against Keller on Sept. 8 due to inclement weather, that game did not count on the overall record since it was ruled a no-contest which means OHS finished with its first winning record since 2009.
>> GIVING THEM A RUN FOR THEIR MONEY: Legacy (8-2, 4-1) ended up winning the District 2-6A title outright in last week’s win over the Bronchos.
However, it didn’t come easy.
The Bronchos took a 21-7 third quarter lead off a seven-yard run by running back Dae Dae Green.
Legacy would then score 25 unanswered points to win.
But at times throughout the game, the Bronchos managed to keep Legacy’s offense off the field as Odessa High had numerous fourth down conversions, as well as two onside kickoff recoveries.
The biggest stat was the five turnovers the Rebels committed, four of which came off fumbles.
“It was tough,” Ortiz said after the game. “We had about five takeaways and usually when you get five takeways, it’s a good night. But hats off to (Legacy) coach (Clint) Hartman and his staff and his kids. They stuck it out. They never gave up and that’s why they got the win.”
LASTING IMAGE: However, the lasting sight of this season for OHS fans will likely be the 49-42 overtime win over crosstown rivals Permian back on Oct. 6, which was the Bronchos’ first victory over the Panthers since 2013.
>> COMEBACK KINGS: The Bronchos’ high-scoring offense, led by wide receiver and OU commit Ivan Carreon, quarterback Mikey Cota and Green carried the team throughout the year and helped Odessa High fight back from being down by double-digits at times.
Such comebacks included the 36-35 win over Amarillo High on Sept. 15 after the Bronchos trailed by 22 points in the first half, and the crosstown win which saw OHS get behind 21-7 in the first half.
>> DEFENSIVE WOES: The Bronchos’ struggles on the defensive side of the ball proved to be too costly.
Odessa High allowed a combined total of 407 points from its opponents this season.
Twice the Bronchos allowed 70 points or more in a game, including their 71-70 overtime win over San Angelo Central on Oct. 13 and a 77-49 loss to Wolfforth Frenshiop on Oct. 27.
The fewest points Odessa High allowed in a game were the 20 points El Paso Americas scored in the Bronchos’ 22-20 win over back on Aug. 31.
>> WHAT’S NEXT?: The offseason is now underway for Odessa High and Ortiz said the team has plenty to work on as they prepare for 2024.
“We’re going to evaluate everyone and do senior exit meetings and get rolling,” Ortiz said. “This season showed us what we need to work on and we’re going to start hitting those things so that we can have a better year next year.”