by David Tesitor
WALSENBURG- Since the opening failed on-side kick by Salida, the John Mall Panthers showed the Spartans they came to play ball. The Panthers won decisively 41-12. It took John Mall three plays and 54 seconds to drive the ball 57 yards for their first score of the evening. Dylan Tenorio was the workhorse for the drive taking the first play from scrimmage 19 yards up the middle. He then took the call for five yards and on the third play of the drive, took the ball 33 yards for the score. The point after was successful and John Mall led 7-0.
On Salida’s first possession, the Panther defense came to task pinning the Spartans deep in their territory. Facing a fourth and seven from the 23, the Spartan punt attempt was fumbled and John Mall recovered the ball at the 11 giving them a short field to work with. On the second play of the drive, Shawn Bobian took the ball up the middle for the score and a Panther 14-0 lead. After exchanging possessions, the Panthers would find the end zone once again in the quarter.
With less than a minute, the Panthers drive ended when JP Vigil took the ball 20 yards and Tenorio for four giving the Panthers a dominating 21-0 lead with 11 seconds remaining. On the ensuing kickoff, Brandon Coleman returned the ball 88 yards for a score as the quarter ended.
On the next kickoff, a successful on-side kick gave Salida the ball at mid field, hoping to capitalize on the error. However, it was the Cat defense stopping the threat after a fourth and 31, giving the Panthers the ball right back.
John Mall continued their powerful offense as they drove the ball inside Spartan territory, taking the ball to the one yard line but a fumbled pass inside the end zone turned the ball back over to Salida. On the play, the Spartan’s leading rusher, Alec Coscarrela, went down with an apparent torn ACL. He was taken to Salida for further diagnostic tests. The Panthers would get the ball back on the next play when Anthony Ortiz recovered a fumble at the 17 yard line. Three plays later, after facing a forth and goal from the two, Brandon Bechaver Vigil connected with Michael Griego for the score and a 28-6 lead with 6:17 in the quarter.
The Spartans would fail to gain a first down and punted to the Panthers. Bechaver took the punt 76 yards down the side line for an apparent touchdown, but a penalty brought the ball back. The Panthers were unable to drive for a score and after an exchange of possessions, the half ended 28-6.
The Spartan defense stopped the Panthers first two drives of the quarter, but on their third, a well executed drive culminated with Shane Bobian breaking up the middle for a 20 yard touchdown score.
Salida’s only offensive scoring drive came late in the game when they took over on downs at the Panther 44 yard line, giving the Spartans a short field to work with. Facing a fourth and goal at the four, Nathan Lowe took it in for the final score of the night.
The real story on the night was the Panther defense. They came to life holding Salida to 112 yards rushing and stopping the pass as their quarterbacks went one of 12 with two interceptions for four yards. The line was strengthened by the return of big men, Bodine Gonzales and Lorenzo Trujillo. The 116 yards of total offense, by an opponent, was the lowest yardage allowed by the Panthers for the season. The majority of the Spartan field position came from their kickoff returns.
If the Panther defense can dominate the line against the Rye Thunderbolts tomorrow, the game should be close.
Rye is coming off a two game winning streak and is ranked 14th in the state. They lost big to the same common opponents as John Mall and have also been playing well the past two weeks.
The key to a Panther victory will be stopping the Thunderbolt running game which averages over 228 yards a game. The ground game is executed by Trey Zupancic and Sean Daniels. Both backs have over 550 yards for the season and need to be stopped.
Quarterback Aaron Doub doesn’t pass often but runs the option well and is also a threat on the ground with over 350 rushing yards. The trio accounts for seventy percent of Rye’s offense.
The Panthers presently are sitting fourth in the Tri-Peaks League and a victory against the ‘Bolts will place them in third. The Panthers are mathematically eliminated from post season play based on league standings.
Gary M. Vezzani was elected Walsenburg’s mayor in Tuesday’s special mayoral election/recall vote. Preliminary results announced Tuesday night show that both Nick Vigil in Ward