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Night versus Day – Panthers rock

by David Tesitor
WALSENBURG — There was a definite difference in the way the John Mall Panthers performed this past week. It was like night and day from their previous outing.
Two weeks ago John Mall was defeated handily at Del Norte under an afternoon sun, but when they played under the Friday Night Lights last week, it was a different story.
The Panthers came alive and dominated the Center Vikings, defeating them with solid performances on both sides of the line, 21-7. The Panthers still had a number of injuredplayers, but their dedication to the team compelled them to the field and on to victory.
From the first series of plays when Center took the opening kickoff and was driving down the field, it appeared it was going to be a long night for the Panthers. After a first and ten at the Panther 33-yard line, followed by an illegal motion penalty, Michael Griego burst through the line to sack Viking quarterback Ryan Perrin for a 7-yard loss. Facing a second and 23, Perrin faded back to pass connecting with Jeremy Moreno for twelve to the 31-yard line. John Paul Vigil then forced the fumble, giving Panthers possession for their first offensive drive of the night.
The Panthers could not capitalize on the turnover and were forced to punt. Jordan Bobian boomed a 36-yard punt, and the Panther special teams were downfield to make the tackle. Center, which ran the option for most of the night, executed their first successful play, a 25-yard run by the quarterback, giving the Vikings the ball at midfield. The next play, the Cat defense came alive, forcing the second fumble of the night with Griego stripping the ball from Moreno’s hand. It was the Viking’s turn at defense, holding the Panthers on their second drive.
Neither team could move the ball in the scoreless first quarter, but as the Panthers began the second quarter, a Brandon Bechaver 22-yard run kept the drive alive. By now, the Panthers seemed to control the line, running the ball effectively. Facing a second and seven from the Viking 45, JP Vigil took the ball for 23 yards, but an unsportsmanlike celebration negated fifteen yards. It did not matter though because two plays later, Griego put the first points on the board. Bobian’s point after was good and with 9:38 in the half, the Panthers took the lead for good.
In the next series, the Panthers’ defense held and on a fourth and seven. Center dropped back to punt, but a muffed snap and scramble by their punter kept the Viking drive alive. The Vikings then proceeded to march the ball down the field to the 5-yard line. A dominating Panther line and defensive backs held the Vikings on an incredible goal- line stance, denying them the promised score. The Panthers took control with less than four minutes in the half and were able to move the ball to the 19 before they were forced to punt with 1:20 remaining. Bobian’s powerful punt of 58 yards drove Center back to the 27-yard line, in essence ending the half. A last second field goal attempt by the Panthers was blocked and John Mall entered the locker room leading 7-0 at the half.
In the second half, fans saw much of the same as Bechaver began to take to the air, finding Vigil and Griego. Their first drive of the half was successful when Bechaver found Shane Bobian alone in the end zone. The PAT was successful and John Mall led 14-0. Center then took their next drive only to have it stopped by another turnover inside the Panther territory. John Mall capitalized and converted the turnover into points when Griego scored his second touchdown of the night.
The only mistakes of the night for the Panthers were several missed tackles on the ensuing kick off return which went for a score. Fortunately a holding penalty brought the ball back to the 24-yard line. Center fumbled on the next play which was recovered by Anthony Ortiz.
John Mall was unable to move the ball giving Center a short field. The Vikings drove the ball inside the ten, but the stingy Panther defense executed another goal line stance.
Center was able to successfully execute a scoring drive late in the game, but time was not on their side. The Panthers prevailed in a brilliantly played game.
Statistically, the Cats looked great. Bechaver was 10 for 17 passing with 171 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite receiver was Griego with 93 yards and 2 TDs. Vigil had 3 receptions for 47 and Shane Bobian had 2 receptions for 26 yards with 1 TD and Kylan Estrada had 1 reception for 5 yards. On the ground, Vigil was the leading rusher with 82 yards.
Defensively, Vigil had 12 tackles and 1 forced fumble, Griego 9 tackles with 3 sacks and 1 fumble recovery, Ortiz 8 and 1 fumble recovered, Cagle 7, Crockett 7, Estrada 6. S. Bobian had one fumble recovered and Trujillo had one forced fumble.
The Panthers will have their first league game tomorrow night as they travel to Buena Vista for a 7 pm kickoff.