Bluejays fly past Fergus Falls, improve to 2-1
WORTHINGTON -- Last year at this time, Andrew Ortiz was carried off the football field with a broken leg during a game against Minnesota State-Fergus Falls..
On Saturday at Trojan Field, the Minnesota West star quarterback marked the rematch -- and the anniversary -- with a performance that erased any doubts about his physical well-being.
Ortiz passed for 317 yards and five touchdowns as the Bluejays dismantled the Spartans 36-12 to thrill an enthusiastic crowd of about 500. It was the second triumph in three tries for the Jays this fall.
“This is a big deal for me,” said Ortiz, who suffered the injury Sept. 15, 2018. “I was hurt and it took me a while to figure everything out, to come back better and stronger.”
That’s certainly how he looked on Saturday.
Ortiz was 19-for-33 passing, including several accurate deep strikes. The sophomore from Albuquerque, N.M., threw a 49-yard rainbow to Titonaro Bumpus late in the first quarter to put Minnesota West ahead to stay.
Ortiz added a 57-yard TD toss to GenTaris Oliver in the second quarter and subsequently connected twice for touchdowns with Gary Smith III. Ortiz also threw a pretty 10-yard TD pass to Tyler Linder midway through the third quarter as the Bluejays built a 36-6 lead.
Bumpus, a sophomore from Racine, Wis., whose twin brother Terryon is among several swift, sure-handed targets for Ortiz, said the Jays are all happy their quarterback is back in the lineup.
“That’s our team. We care a lot about how he is. He’s able to stay calm and deliver the ball,” said Bumpus. “We’re real deep at receiver, and anybody can have a big game at any time. We spread the ball around, and that’s good.”
Unofficially, the Jays outgained the Spartans in total yardage 421-193. While Minnesota West improved to 2-1, Fergus Falls fell to 0-4.
Nazurus Richardson accounted for both Fergus Falls touchdowns, a four-yard run from Wildcat formation in the first half and a 41-yard reception from quarterback Peyton Pruett midway through the fourth quarter.
By then, the game had long been decided.
The turning point came in the second quarter when a scrambling Ortiz was stopped two yards short of the end zone on a 4th-and-8 call. Fergus Falls took over in the shadow of its own end zone, and Pruett completed a short swing pass to a receiver who was tackled in the end zone for a safety.
Following a free quick, Ortiz went up top immediately and hit Oliver for a touchdown. The two scores in a span of 15 seconds on the stadium clock gave the Bluejays a two-score lead. The Bluejays put it on cruise control thereafter.
Veteran Minnesota West head coach Jeff Linder was all smiles after the final horn.
“We gave our quarterback a little more time to make some good decisions and get some receivers downfield so we could make some plays,” Linder said.
Ortiz certainly delivered.
“He’s fun,” Linder said. “He can make things happen, often times out of nothing. We’re real fortunate to have him back."
There is still a bit of a hitch in Ortiz’s gait when he jogs back and forth to the huddle. It’s a reminder of that year-old injury, but his quickness and elusiveness are still there. So is his arm strength.
“For the most part I feel like I’m 100 percent,” he said. “There’s a few things I don’t feel fully there with, but I’ll get there.”
There were highlights on both sides of the ball for the Jays. Kwesi Hooks, Darwin Green Jr., and Mylin Duffie each made interceptions. The Jays’ defensive line was disruptive from start to finish and allowed just 31 net rushing yards.
Duffie’s pick was an amazing one-handed job on a deep sideline route after which the Jays’ bench erupted in celebration.
Indeed, there was plenty to be happy about. No one knows it better than Ortiz.
“This was emotional for me,” he said. “There’s a few things we need to clean up, some penalties and turnovers and missed opportunities. But we’ll work on it this week in practice and be ready for Vermilion.”
The Bluejays will be back at Trojan Field next Saturday night to meet Vermilion CC.
“Overall we really did a great job,” Linder said. “I think we wore them out. We’re getting better every week, and that’s what we strive for.”