by David Tesitor
WALSENBURG — The John Mall Panthers football team defeated the Panthers of Peyton, 41-6, proving the Purple and White cats are the dominant Panther squad in the Tri-Peaks Division.
John Mall dominated, from controlling a much larger line to running, passing and coming up with blockbuster defensive plays. The Peyton team, which averages over 280 a game, was held to a season low of 162 total yards. Bigger yet was the Panthers’ ability to contain Tyler Lashley, who is leading the league in total rushing with 911 yards. John Mall held the back to 28 rushing yards, denying him the chance to break 1000 yards this season.
The John Mall Panthers got on the boards after senior MichaelRyan Griego recovered a fumbled option pitch from Finley to Lashley on the 17 yard line and took the ball downtown for 83 yards and the score at the 7:07 mark. Jordan Bobian’s kick was good and the Panthers never looked back.
Midway in the second quarter, the offense came alive and scored their first TD on a Brandon Bechaver 27-yard shuttle pass to Shawn Bobian. Bobian broke four tackles before he reversed field to find the end zone. J. Bobian’s kick was good, and the Panthers extended their lead 14-0 with 7:02 in the half. John Mall’s offensive output in the second quarter was 128 yards.
John Mall continued their dominance on the next drive when Jordon Bobian intercepted a pass and returned it to the 28-yard line. A series of penalties and sacks forced John Mall to punt the ball away.
Peyton began what appeared to be a scoring drive, but an Evan Finley pass was picked off by Griego on the goal line, stopping the threat.
After the next John Mall punt, Peyton tried to move the ball and for the second time in the quarter, Finley was intercepted, this time by Jordon Bobian for a 67-yard pick-six, giving the John Mall Panthers a 21-0 halftime lead. They had one more chance to score before the half ended when Bechaver hit his receiver on a hook and ladder, but the run fell short of breaking away.
The first drive of the third quarter saw a fourth and one at the Peyton 9-yard line. Shane Bobian took the ball up the middle for five and a Panther first and goal from the four. The next play, J.P. Vigil scored, blowing the game wide open with a Panther 28-0 lead with 7:19 remaining.
Then, Peyton executed their only successful offensive drive of the night. Lashley gained most of his 28 yards on this drive, culminating with a 10-yard touchdown score. The point after failed and the Panthers’ led, 28-6.
Both teams continued to try and move the ball. The John Mall defense was strong, forcing broken plays and causing sacks. There were two highlights in the fourth quarter.
J.P. Vigil scored his second touchdown of the night, a 4-yard burst up the middle, and in a reversal of roles, Griego lined up under center and connected with Bechaver for a 55-yard bomb as the game neared an end.
The John Mall Panthers basically called their own plays the last two drives, not accepting the calls from the sidelines. One series of downs, they gave the ball to Jacob Pino who lined up as fullback on three occasions and gained some big yards. Pino normally is a lineman, but his size and speed allowed him to gain 14 yards. They also called the Griego to Bechaver connection.
After the game, Griego commented about the throw, “I told Brandon to go downtown.” It was a perfectly executed pass and reception, showing the parents’ night crowd their Panthers playing ball.
Defensively, John Mall stopped Peyton on three occasions on a third and short yardage, forcing the turnover on downs. J.P. Vigil led all tacklers with ten and three assists. Jacob Pino had eight and two.
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