by David Tesitor
BURLINGTON- The John Mall Panthers’ season came to a disappointing end last Saturday afternoon at Consbruck Field in Burlington where they fell 51-6 in the first round of the 1A Colorado High School State playoff to the defending state champions.
The 60-mile-an-hour winds created havoc for both schools in the execution of their passing and kicking game. The Cougars won the toss and elected to defer, taking the wind at their backs and forcing the Panthers’ first offensive series to face the wind. They also faced a larger defensive line that stopped the Panthers running game all afternoon.
Their first drive stalled and the Cats were forced to kick on a fourth and eleven. The high winds netted a 15-yard kick and brought the ball back into Panther territory, giving Burlington a short field. Two plays later Christian Ramos showed the Panther defense why he is the team’s leading rusher, taking the ball 41 yards for the score. He rushed for his second touchdown in the second quarter.
It simply was not the Panthers’ day as Burlington took advantage of excellent field position all afternoon, starting their scoring drives on average from inside the Panther 30-yard line. The wind did not help the punting game at all; the ball would drift back for little net yardage. The hand-offs and pitches resulted in three lost fumbles for the Cats.
Burlington, which usually rushes for over 250 yards per game, was held to 117 yards on the ground and 10 in the air. They had four punt returns for 97 yards. The Cougars erupted for four first-quarter touchdowns and four in the second quarter including a 45-yard fumble recovery for touchdown. By then, the 40-point rule kicked in and the clock continued to run.
The Panthers controlled the Cougar offensive in the second half holding them scoreless. The Panthers averted the shutout when the Cougars lost the ball on a fumble and the Panthers recovered. Clayton Berger back dropped to pass, completing a 15-yard pass to an open MichaelRyan Griego at the 9-yard line. The drive culminated on a 4-yard shuttle pass to Jacob Wiggins.
In spite of the disappointing loss, the Panthers can be proud they made the playoffs for the second time in as many years, a tribute to how far the program has come over the past decade. It was also a memory the seniors will carry with them because most of them began their football career with Ken Berger when he envisioned the Warrior football program ten years ago.
Walsenburg showed tremendous spirit and support for the John Mall boys with over 100 Panther fans making the long trip to cheer the boys on and let them know how proud the community is of their accomplishments this year.
This Panther team can also hold their heads high because on that windy Saturday, they had a top notch team to contend with. This was the Burlington Cougars’ twenty-second consecutive playoff appearance, a run that has included five state championships and one trip to the final four.
The 2011 John Mall seniors who played their last game for Coach Ken Berger include : Jacob Wiggins, Brandon Atencio, Zac Harriman, and Evan Crockett.