With the moon setting behind him as the lights at Coleman Field cut through Monday’s early-morning darkness, Odessa High football coach Dusty Ortiz stood in front of his team and uttered what is quickly becoming the mantra of the program:
“It’s a great day to be a Broncho.”
If the first four weeks are any indication, the first-year head coach may be understating the changes happening at 13th and Dotsy this season.
Odessa High is putting up offensive numbers that have rarely been seen on the west side of town.
Pinball machine numbers.
Senior quarterback Diego Cervantes has completed 92 of 144 passes for 1,211 yards and 10 touchdowns, with five interceptions.
He is ranked 13th in the state among quarterbacks at every level, averaging 302 yards passing per game.
Odessa High, with 1,251 yards through the air through four games, is the No. 1 passing offense in Class 6A in the state.
No, that wasn’t a typo. The Bronchos currently are more prolific than Southlake Carroll, Allen, Austin Westlake, Lake Travis, etc.
The last time the Bronchos played a 10-game schedule (2019), they passed for 1,084 yards.
In 2020, during an abbreviated seven-game schedule due to COVID-19 issues, Odessa High finished with 579 yards passing.
“The kids have really bought in to what we are trying to do here,” offensive coordinator Creighton Reed said. “There hasn’t been any push back at all.
“And you can see the confidence growing each day and after each game. They all want to be a part of something, of putting this program on a different path.”
>> DISTRICT OPENER: As the Bronchos waited for the whistle to start practice, Ortiz had another message for the team.
“We are 0-0,” he said. “Nondistrict is over. This week starts district play when we play Midland High on Friday.”
Odessa High (2-2) will meet the Bulldogs (1-3) at 7 p.m. Friday at Grande Communications Stadium.
Everything that Ortiz and his staff have taught over the last six months since taking over the program has been geared toward the next seven weeks of competition.
“1 of 4, that’s what we tell them,” Ortiz said. “They are good enough to be one of the four teams from the district to make the playoffs.
“We believe that and this is the first step. I’m a big believer that preseason is all about who you are and what you can do and what you can achieve. It’s what I just told them, we know who we are, we know what we can do, now let’s go do it.”
>> BITTERSWEET: The Bronchos came up short in their matchup against Wichita Falls Rider Friday, falling 47-43 on the road at Midwestern State University.
Odessa High had its chances, but a couple miscues cost it the chance fashion a three-game winning streak heading into District 2-6A play.
If there was a silver lining for the long bus ride home, it was that the program had set five new single-game records on offense, led by Cervantes’ 408 passing yards on the night.
“It’s more bitter than sweet, I think,” Reed said. “So proud of the kids and what they’ve done, but they’ll all tell you that the win would have been better.”
>> GOING ON FOURTH: The Bronchos went for the first down several times against the Raiders, but not entirely by choice.
Both of the Odessa High kickers were injured for the game, forcing Ortiz and Reed to gamble a little bit more.
The lack of kicking game possibly hurt the Bronchos in that they weren’t able to score any points on several drives deep into Rider territory.
“There were some calls that I would have made different once we got down into the red zone, gone for the field goals,” Ortiz said. “I was just going through the game in my head and thinking if we get two field goals when we are down deep in their territory, okay there’s the extra six points.
“And then one at the end of the game. We’ll get them both back this week.”
>> NEW COACHES: Friday’s matchup between the Bronchos and Bulldogs features two of the three new head coaches in Ortiz and Midland High’s Thad Fortune.
Fortune was a long-time Permian assistant before being hired to run the Bulldogs.
Ortiz and his staff had a chance to watch Midland High during the opening week and came away impressed.
“They were down two touchdowns against (El Paso) Montwood and roared back to win that game,” Ortiz said. “Coach (Thad) Fortune has done a great job over there and we are going to have to play our best game.”
>> SUBVARSITY: It was a tough week for the Bronchos lower-level teams, as all four lost games against Midland Legacy.
This week, the freshmen will travel to face Midland High at 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Thursday at Memorial Stadium.
The JV White will face the Bulldogs at 5 p.m. on Thursday at Ratliff Stadium, followed by the JV Red contest at 6:30 p.m.
>> Follow Lee Scheide on Twitter at @OALeeScheide
ODESSA HIGH AT MIDLAND HIGH
>> When: 7 p.m. Friday.
>> Where: Grande Communications Stadium, Midland.
>> Last Season: Midland High 26, Odessa High 14.
>> Records: Odessa High 2-2; Midland High 1-3.
>> Radio: KHKX (FM-99.1).
>> Live Updates: Follow on Twitter at @OALeeScheide.
ODESSA HIGH PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Last Week: Was 34-of-46 passing for 408 yards and two touchdowns, with two interceptions. Rushed eight times for 46 yards and three touchdowns. Pass completions and passing yardage are both school records.
This season: Has completed 92 of 144 passes for 1,211 yards and 10 touchdowns, with five interceptions, while rushing 30 times for 215 yards and nine touchdowns.