by David Tesitor
ALAMOSA- In a non-league matchup, the John Mall Panthers traveled to Alamosa to face the Center Vikings and came away with an impressive 42-6 victory. The forty-two points was among their best offensive showing in four years and equaled their best from last season when they defeated Custer County.
The offense scored points from all over the field as the Viking defense failed to contain the powerful trio of backs and the athleticism of Charlie Whitehead. The Panther backs, Dylan Tenorio, Andre Ortiz and Zac Harriman were unstoppable; all three had multiple carries for double-digit yardage throughout the afternoon. The defense also took charge as they forced eight turnovers during the afternoon.
On the Panthers’ third drive of the day, Tenorio set up the first Panther scoring opportunity on a 23-yard run to the Viking 1. He then capped off the drive with a touchdown run to give the Cats a 6-0 lead. Whitehead’s point after was good. During the ensuing Viking drive, Whitehead intercepted the ball deep in Panther territory and ran the ball back to mid-field, ending Center’s drive and the first quarter.
Tenorio took the opening ball 24 yards to the thirty to begin the second. Two plays later, Tenorio carried the ball 16 yards into the red zone for the second time of the day, setting up another scoring opportunity for John Mall, but an interception in the end zone stopped the drive.
The Panther defense came alive the next two series of downs as they stripped the ball away from the Viking backs for their second fumble of the half. The last resulted in a Panther scoring drive capped off by Adam Ortiz scoring his first TD of the day and giving the Cats a 14-0 half time lead.
The Vikings received the kickoff to begin the second half and executed a brilliant eighty-yard touchdown drive to bring them within eight, 14-6, but Andre Ortiz broke the hopes of a Center rally when he returned the ensuing kickoff for an 81-yard touchdown return. It was all Panthers from thereafter.
The defense held the next series of plays forcing a punt on 4th and 8. The offense took over once again and was put into scoring position for the fourth time of the afternoon when Zac Harriman took a pair of carries 40 yards putting John Mall into the red zone. Two plays later, Whitehead scrambled out of the pocket to find an open Jacob Wiggins in the end zone for the score. His point after was good and the Panthers found themselves with a comfortable 28-6 lead.
Center’s Stephen Garcia fumbled the return which was recovered by the Panthers on the thirty. Andre Ortiz set up another opportunity for the Cats with an 11-yard run, giving the Panthers a 1st and 10 on the nineteen. The play of the day was a gadget play when Whitehead lined up off guard and the ball was snapped to John Pino who passed the ball to an open Whitehead, who scored the touchdown.
The Panthers were not through. After the defense held, the Cats took over at the 47-yard line to begin their last drive of the game. It was capped off by a Whitehead to Ortiz 10-yard play action pass for the score. Whitehead’s passing touchdown completed the trifecta: on this day, he passed for, ran and received touchdowns. He also had six point-after touchdown scores.
The defense recovered six of eight Viking fumbles and intercepted the ball twice. The Panthers coughed up the ball twice and Whitehead had one interception.
The Panthers will travel to Calhan to face the Ellicott Thunderhawks on Saturday. Ellicott is not a team to be taken lightly. They defeated Rocky Ford last week 17-15. This will be the first meeting for both schools which leads to the question, what is a Thunderhawk?