by David Tesitor
WALSENBURG-The Crowley County Chargers shocked the John Mall Panthers last Saturday in football action, defeating the Panthers 20-14. The loss means the Panthers must defeat the Rye Thunderbolts Saturday to win the Santa Fe League title and a guaranteed spot in the state playoffs. (See John Mall -Rye preview story).
From the opening sequence of plays, the Chargers took control early and the Panthers seemed outplayed. The opening kickoff was a called onside attempt but went long and was recovered by Crowley at the 40-yard line. Ty Peiff capped off a 28-yard drive off an end sweep to give the Chargers the early lead, 6-0.
The usually explosive Panther offense stalled after an eight-play drive on a fourth and seven, turning the ball over on downs to Crowley. Crowley was driving once again into Panther territory until Shane Bobian intercepted the ball on the twenty-seven.
The Panthers were on the move once again to begin their second drive utilizing the talents of Andre Ortiz, plowing his way up the middle to mid-field. A turnover by Charlie Whitehead gave the ball back to the Chargers who executed an eight-play drive with runs up the middle. Pfeiff scored his second touchdown with an up-and-over-the-line score from two yards out and a 12-0 score.
John Mall got on the board late in the second when Whitehead connected to a wide-open Jordon Bobian for a 43 yard touchdown pass.
The next scoring occurred late in the 4th quarter after Crowley executed a 60-yard drive to put the game out of reach, 20-7. On the Panthers’ next drive, Whitehead was intercepted, stopping the drive. The Cats held the next series and on the punt return, Whitehead took the ball 72-yards for the score, giving new life to John Mall, 20-14. The onside kick attempt was recovered by the Chargers who then ran out the clock, securing the upset victory and creating a must win scenario for the Panthers Saturday.
For the day, Dylan Tenorio rushed for 68 yards and had one reception for 13. Ortiz rushed for 82 and Jacob Wiggins, who played hurt most of the day, rushed for 17.
After the game, Coach Berger commented, "It was another physically tough game for our guys and we fought hard, but in the end their size was too much for us. They were able to sustain a running game and that is the reason we lost the game. If we play poor run defense, we really have a hard time winning the game." The size of the Charger line was a challenge for the Panthers as their guards both tipped the scales at 270 pounds creating holes for their own backs.
Berger also went on to say, "I sure am proud at how we fought to the very end of the game. Looking forward to this week we really need to shore up our run defense if we want to have any chance at beating Rye."
The game against the T-Bolts is Saturday in Walsenburg at 1 pm. We encourage everyone to come out and cheer on the team to the Panthers’ first league title since 2000.