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Panther lightning strikes down Thunderhawks

by David Tesitor
CALHAN — The John Mall Panthers football team played an aggressive and well executed game last Saturday, defeating the Ellicott Thunderhawks 27-0 in one of the best games they have played all season.
This was their first shutout of the season. The last time they shut out an opponent was last season when they defeated Las Animas 20-0. This was the third time the Panthers have faced the Thunderhawks and their first league encounter. The victory brought the Panthers’ record to 2-4 (1-3 in league) and dropped Ellicott to 1-5 (0-4 in league).
The Panther offense was diverse as four Panthers put points on the boards with a mixture of passing and rushing scores. Jordon Bobian also connected with a three points after touchdown.
Dylan Tenorio put the Panthers on the board first. The Cats completed a successful long drive when he carried the ball in from the 1-yard line midway in the first quarter. Michael Griego capped off the Panthers’ last successful drive of the first quarter with a 20-yard reception from Brandon Bechaver. Bechaver finished the day completing 5 of 9 passes and no interceptions for 58 yards for the afternoon and two touchdowns. His second TD strike would be a 33-yard completion, also to Griego at 3:53 in the third.
The biggest offensive threat coming from the Panthers came by the hands of John Paul Vigil who ran for 142 yards. His 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was the icing on the cake and put an end to the Thunderhawks’ threat.
It was the Panther defense which came to life in the shutout victory. The speed of the linebackers forced Sophomore Thunderhawk Jovante Stewart to scramble, causing him to throw four interceptions. Prior to Saturday’s game, Stewart threw one interception. He was also sacked four times. The Panthers also forced five fumbles, recovering a pair of loose pigskins. J.P. Vigil and Anthony Ortiz led the team with ten tackles each. Pino had seven tackles.
The victory was a gratifying one as the Panthers won a rare road game. They will return home for homecoming tomorrow and square off against the Salida Spartans. This will be the first time the two teams have faced each other, and both teams come into the game evenly matched.
The Spartans were demolished by Colorado Springs Christian last week, 41-0. Another Spartan loss against a common opponent came at the hands of Buena Vista which defeated Salida 58-0 and Custer County which upset Salida 30-22. They defeated Ellicott earlier this season 28-20.
The Spartans’ offensive attack comes mainly on the ground as three rushers are responsible for the majority of the Spartan yardage and carries. Quarterback Alec Coscarella runs an option style offensive and has carried the ball for 281 yards on the season, averaging 3.3 yards per carry.
Running back Brandon Coleman is their powerhorse, averaging 6.87 yards per carry while Nathan Lowe averages 4.57. The Spartan passing game is virtually nonexistent with only 54 yards, 20 of 54 completions per game and a 37% completion ratio.
The key to Panther victory will be stopping their running game. With three weeks remaining in the season, the Panthers are mathematically eliminated from winning a share of the league, but a string of victories will give the Cats some respectability within the 1A Tri-Peaks division and a chance to finish strong. A victory tomorrow will be their first step.