ODESSA/MIDLAND, Texas (KMID/KPEJ) – Week nine of the high school football season comes with a lot of pressure, and high stakes.
“I think pressure is a good thing. You know, that means there’s expectations. That means that we’re doing something right. And, you know, you wouldn’t want to be in a situation where there wasn’t pressure,” Odessa High Head Coach Dusty Ortiz said.
Three weeks into district play, both the Odessa High Bronchos and the Midland High Bulldogs have the biggest opportunity to make history.
“You know there’s no glory and peak in week one, there’s no glory in peak in week two,” MHS Head Coach Thad Fortune added. “And the same thing, there’s no glory in peaking in week seven is that we still haven’t achieved our goals yet”
The ground and pound Midland Bulldogs are undefeated coming into their matchup in week nine, undefeated in the regular season, are right alongside the relentless Odessa Bronchos are both tied at 2-0 in district. Suddenly, both have the opportunity to clinch a playoff berth just three weeks into district play.
And both coaches couldn’t wait for their kids to experience a moment like this one.
Ortiz added with a big smile, “They’ve earned this, I think, you know, more than anything that they deserve to be in this position from what they’ve done in the past.”
And Fortune reiterated, “So I just think it’s really, really cool for our kids to see that you can have success and then you can even have a healthy distaste for what could be. We’ve been working so hard this week that we’ve got to believe that our best football game is in front of us.”
When asked if either of them expected to have a chance at playoffs at this stage of district play, they both had similar answers.
“We’ve turned around a lot of programs and I knew it was going to be a matter of time.,” Ortiz said. “I thought it was going to be last year, to be honest with you. But, you know, it didn’t happen. We just had some things not go our way.”
“I certainly thought it was possible to be in this situation, but I don’t think I mapped it out, one way or the other,” Fortune shrugged.
For the Bronchos, this season includes more history-making games than any other season before, dating back a decade, to the last time these crucial boxes were checked.
The season in 2013, was the last time the Bronchos beat Permian, check, the last time they beat Midland High, and the last time they made the playoffs.
And this week, all three of those boxes could be checked for the first time in ten years.
Ortiz said this is amazing for his team, “You know, I think last year and the year before, when something didn’t go our way or when many things didn’t go our way, it seemed like the floodgates would open up and it would just get a lot worse, lot of these kids have never been on a winning team, you know, junior high all the way up. And I think they had to see it, experience it, and then they said, okay, we can do this.”
And in just the town over, for Midland High, this is a chance to prove themselves in their district and their community, and be the team they know they are.
The Bulldogs have not lost to the Bronchos since 2013, but they also have yet to make the playoffs since 2018, a five-year playoff drought. And in week nine, remain undefeated and have a clear opportunity to break that losing streak.
Fortune emphasized, “To be to know in district in week eight and still be firmly in control of our own destiny is satisfying. But also I think it makes us want to don’t you know, don’t give it up, don’t lose what we’ve got going.”
But what makes these two teams special? If they could describe this team in one word, what would it be?
Ortiz replied, “I think you heard me say it a lot today, they’re just resilient.”
And Fortune said, “Committed.” And, “bought-in.”
At this moment in time, both coaches are focused on what’s happening right now.
Fortune said, “It’s been trying to go week by week, game by game with a real big focus on let’s just try to get better.”
And Ortiz echoed, “The first thing that’s going on, in my mind is we got to win the game. Right? I think that’s that’s first and foremost.”
Yet, neither team is willing to give up, and to battle it out in week nine of the season, is the perfect time to prove they belong.
“They’ve been working really hard for a long time,” Fortune added. “And I’m happy that they’re seeing some fruit and I think they would agree with me and that we don’t, we don’t want it to we don’t want our best football to be behind us at this point.
“I’m just proud that they’ve bought in since year one,” Ortiz smiled. “We’ve made a lot of strides. We still have strides to make, but they really have bought in and try to do what we were asking them to do and to turn that corner.”