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Sports for September 03, 2009

Panthers are ready to pounce

by Guy Blasi

WALSENBURG- John Mall High School Head Coach Ken Berger is looking forward to this year’s season with optimism.

    The Panthers had a difficult season in 2008, but 2009 is shaping up to be something special in Berger’s eyes.  “We were just too inexperienced last year.  There were times when we knew exactly what the other team was going to run against us and we were powerless to stop them.  This year, I see the improvement.  We’re still a young team.  I’ll even have three or four freshman who will be seeing action,” he said.

    Berger, a 1990 graduate of John Mall High, has a passion for kids and football.  “I care about our kids and I get great satisfaction out of seeing them improve.  We had a great off-season weight program and we went to the University of Nebraska Kearney team camp this summer.  I can see where we’re starting to have momentum,” he said.

    Berger’s team is young.  They have only two seniors this year, but they’re starting to see benefits from the Warriors’ youth teams.  “We have our first sophomores who are from the Warriors program and I can already see the improvement,” Berger said.  Berger’s Panthers are ready to pounce.

Huerfano Open

by Guy Blasi

WALSENBURG- Fifty-five two-person teams in four divisions took part in the annual Huerfano Open held jointly last weekend at Walsenburg Golf Club and Grandote Peaks Golf Club in LaVeta.  Four flights alternated golf courses on Saturday and Sunday and played a scramble format using an indexed-handicap system.  When play concluded, the first-flight team of Chance Robinson and Jim Roush from Pueblo were the winners with an adjusted score of 115.7 winning by 7.1 strokes over the father-son team of Bruce and Justin Eccher of Walsenburg, with a score of 122.8.

    Winning the second flight were Rob and James Thayer from Las Animas with a 124.8.  Third-Flight winners were Fred Eccher and Joey Walecheck of Walsenburg with a score of 127.4.  Fourth-Flight winners were Gary Baker and Andy Medina from Crowley County with a score of 128.2.

    The tournament was given very positive reviews by the majority of the players this year.  The Walsenburg Golf Club championship will be held in September.  Overall, local golfers in Huerfano County can look forward to many pleasant days ahead with autumn and Indian Summer days coming up.

Panther football on track

by David Tesitor

WALSENBURG- If last Saturday’s scrimmage against the Ellicott Thunderhawks is an indication of the abilities of this season’s Panther football team, then the rest of the league better look out.  The Hawks and the Cats took to the field with some hard-hitting action, both teams readying themselves for the season opening games tomorrow.

    The teams ran a series of ten plays from the 40-yard line, testing their offense and defense.  With only ten practices behind them, John Mall looked ready for action as they came out hitting hard and running fast.   Quarterback Charlie Whitehead led the first team offensive attack, executing plays like a mid-season pro.  The offense was impressive as the blockers up front contained the Hawk line, allowing players like Jacob Wiggins and Clayton Archuleta to sweep around the end. Their burst of speed contributed to some very long plays.

    Defensively, the Cats picked off a number of passes and hit the opponents with fierce, bone-crunching sounds, dropping them to the artificial turf with a dominating crash.  They allowed a few long plays, but mostly they were able to read the plays and execute their defense with few mistakes.

    The Panthers have added a new player to their roster this season.  Toshito Otake, an exchange student from Japan, will be called upon to do most of the kicking.  This soccer style player has never played the American version of football which is evident in his straight-on address of the ball.  He kicked a thirty-yard field goal, splitting the uprights with plenty of room to spare.  With some timing and practice, Otake should provide the Panthers with an added threat.

    The Hawks had scrimmaged Pueblo Central and East the previous day, and by the mid-way point, their fatigue was apparent.  Five players walked off the field with minor injuries.  The new playing surface likely prevented any serious injuries, as the synthetic surface helps to absorb the falls.

    The scrimmage was a useful tool for the Panthers; they learned from their mistakes and executed subsequent plays with better timing.  The actual contact against their opponents, helped give the sophomore and freshman members of the team a true hands-on experience which will carry them into the season.

    Coach Berger assures us that the team will be ready on Saturday as the Panthers will be stalking the Sanford Farmers beginning at one pm.

Two-four-six-eight…Who do we appreciate:  the cheerleaders

LA VETA- It takes more than the athletes on the fields to comprise a successful sports program.  It also takes the behind-the-scene supporters who rally the crowd into a fevered frenzy.  These young women (and sometimes men) play a vital part in the atmosphere of any sporting event.  They are the cheerleading squad or spirit team.

    At La Veta, these dedicated young ladies are also playing volleyball, basketball and track.  Yet this team of supporters will cheer on all the high school athletic teams this season.  They will be responsible for organizing the pep-rallies, putting together gift bags and providing other signs of encouragement.  They are active in the homecoming and Winterfest activities.

    Cheerleading coach Lindsay Robbins has these young women working hard to maintain the spirit of the teams.  Robbins has already worked with the La Veta Rotary on the Century Bike ride this past August and will host a mini-camp for the grade school girls this fall.  Coach Robbins also insists that the cheerleaders maintain a grade average higher than CHSAA requires as well as maintaining family life and other extra curricular activities.

    The 2009 La Veta spirit squad includes seniors Ariel Jameson, Dani Brown, and Haley Everett; juniors Akira Vaughan, Betsy Trenckmann and Whitney Blair; sophomores Isabel Martinez and Shelby Baker.  The lone freshman is Hannah Everett.  The next time you are at the Redskin games, lend your voices and help these fine ladies encourage their teams.  After all, the home crowd noise is that  ‘extra player.’