LET HIM FEAST
Tristan Ortiz: An Appetite For Complete Domination
It’s one of our favorite questions to ask an opposing coach each week...
‘Which Owl do you fear the most?’
The answer, more times than not, is the same.
They may not know his name off the top of their head, but they sure know his number.
“Number 74,” they say.
Tristan Ortiz is a force up front for the Reagan County Owls on both sides of the ball.
The 5’11” 270 lbs. junior is mowing down opponents with 34 pancakes blocks in the Owls’ first four games of the season.
A pancake, if you didn’t know, is when an offensive player, typically a lineman, makes a block so hard it leaves the defender flat on his back... like a pancake.
“Our offensive line is the best group on this team,” Coach Blake Weston said. “They are the best group, and he is their leader.”
Tristan made his impact felt Friday night in the Owls’ game against Forsan time after time with eight pancake blocks. The worst game for the Owls this year ended up being Tristan’s best with 13 pancakes in the team’s season opening loss to McCamey.
“He is really special on both sides of the ball,” Weston said. “When he is right, he is the best lineman I know. He is smart and strong as all get out.”
Tristan doesn’t think of himself as anything special though.
“I think I’d give myself a B minus at this point in the season,” Tristan said. “I’ve made many improvements since my sophomore year, but I have a lot of room to grow.”
Those improvements started last year during spring ball.
“I came in early last year to get to know everyone,” Weston said. “I noticed Tristan was slimming down. I asked another coach if he was Okay.”
Turns out Tristan was hitting the weight room hard turning any extra weight into muscle.
“I knew right then he’d have a good season this year,” Weston said.
Some of Coach Weston’s decisions may have more to do with Tristan’s success than he will acknowledge.
While Weston brought in a new offensive scheme for the Owls in his first year as a head coach, he also made the decision to keep much of the blocking up front the same as when the team was in the Wing T.
“Everything else we do on the field is different,” Weston said. “But those guys up front are doing the same thing they did in year’s past. Not only are they doing the same things, they are doing them really well.”
One feature of the team’s blocking style is the consistent use of a pulling blocker.
“That is my favorite,” Tristan said. “When I get the play and realize I get to pull, I get very excited.”
One such play happened on the Owls’ second score Friday night in Forsan.
Weston called an off tackle counter play setting up Tristan with his favorite type of block.
“You get the whole defense flowing one way with misdirection,” Tristan said. “Then I pull to the other side. I always get a pancake on that play when I get to my man.”
Tristan fully de-cleated Forsan’s best and biggest lineman on the play to help set up the Alex Chavez score.
“That is part of what makes him unique,” Weston said. “He is big and very strong. What sets him apart though is his feet. He has really good feet and knows how to move.”
Not only does he move well near the line of scrimmage, he also has an engine that won’t quit until the whistle blows.
On the Owls’ first touchdown of the night in Forsan, Tristan found himself 20 yards down the field laying a devastating block on a Buffaloes’ defensive back to help spring Samuel Goodloe free.
“When I see Samuel break a play open, I know he is giving it all he has,” Tristan said. “I want to do the same. I want to guarantee he gets into the endzone.”
Sometimes, it’s Tristan who finds himself in the endzone, though.
“We had him on the scout team in Week 2,” Weston said. “Irion County liked to give the ball to one of their linemen, so we had Tristan in the backfield simulating that look.”
Weston found out what most Reagan County fans who watched Tristan play middle school ball already knew. Tristan can run the rock.
“I watched him a few times before it hit me,” Weston said. “I told another coach, ‘hey, Tristan looks really good with the ball.’ We set to work putting some plays in for him.”
The Owls have utilized those plays mainly in two-point situations with Tristan notching four points for the Owls so far.
“I love it,” Tristan said. “Having the ball tucked in my arm isn’t something I get to experience often. Every time coach gives me that opportunity, I’m going to take advantage and make it count.”
Players who make their name behind the blocks of Tristan and the offensive line have nothing but praise for him and the group he belongs to.
“He is just so big,” Samuel Goodloe said. “When he is going full speed he is hard to stop. He makes an impact every play and that is appreciated.”
Sophomore Cahel Lafferty, who had a breakout game Week 2 for the Owls, said he feels it is Tristan’s versatility that makes him so special.
“It is really rare to find someone like him,” Lafferty said. “He’s strong enough to drive a man off the ball and take him to the ground, but he’s fast enough to get where he needs to be when he pulls.”
Lafferty said that versatility means the world to him.
“As a back, it doesn’t get much better than that,” Lafferty said. “He’s very smart and a leader too. He knows when its time to get serious.”
Lafferty, who is new to Reagan County this year coming from Cotulla, Texas, said one last bold thing about Owls’ number 74.
“When this season is over there will be no doubt he is the best lineman in the district,” Lafferty said. “I know he is the best lineman I’ve ever played with, and wouldn’t hesitate to say he’s the best in West Texas.”
That kind of praise lines up well with one of Tristan’s personal goals for the year.
“I want to be All-State as an offensive guard and defensive tackle,” Tristan said. “We work hard to win a district championship and win the last game of the year. I, myself, work to be All-State. Everyday at practice I give it my all to achieve that goal.”
It wasn’t easy to focus in on Tristan for this article.
From Coach Weston, to Goodloe and Lafferty, down to Tristan himself... all of them gave praise to the offensive line as a group first.
“I agree that the strength of our team comes from the line,” Tristan said. “Each one of us take great pride in what we do. What we do individually, and what we do as a group. We love comparing stats on Monday to see who had the most pancakes
and drive blocks. We are competitive against each other, and that makes us work harder each practice.”
Tristan is joined on the offensive line by left tackle, Jose Rocha, left guard, Trey Ortiz, center, Angel Gallegos and right tackle Servando Carrasco.
“They are each so talented at what they do,” Weston said. “That right side with Tristan and Servando is so huge. They are big guys that can move the line of scrimmage. The left side is quicker and often out plays opponents that out weigh them by quite a bit.”
As for those opposing coaches that respond to our first question with a “number 74,” well, they have a lot to say about what sets Tristan apart.
“He is a load on the line,” Forsan Coach Jason Phillips said. “We haven’t faced a guy with his size or strength this season. We have to take care of him.”
Coahoma Coach Fred Dietz echoed with similar observations of Tristan.
“Our main focus is that number 74,” Dietz said prior to the Owls’ win in Week 3. “You don’t see many big men like him that can move. He is a good football player. A really good football player.”
Tristan will get another chance to dominate the trenches this Friday as the Owls travel to Ozona seeking a solid 4-1 start to the year.
This is a good chance to encourage all Owl fans to arrive in Ozona early to participate in the Ozona Knights of Columbus Pancake Supper before the game starting at 5 p.m.
Settle in with our neighbors to the south at their Civic Center across from the stadium and have a pancake feast.
Rest assured, your Owls’ offensive line, spearheaded by number 74, will be hosting a pancake feast of their own starting at kickoff.
Let them feast...