Friday night lights and Friday night fights as John Mall dominates Ellicott
by David Tesitor
WALSENBURG — The John Mall Panthers closed out their last game at home with an impressive 26-0 win over the Ellicott Thunderhawks before a sparse Parent’s Night crowd.
The game was marred by three players being ejected from the game midway in the second quarter as tempers rose and fists flew. Two Thunderhawks and one Panther were removed from the game and will also sit out the season finale tomorrow.
The Panthers played a well-defined game, taking advantage of both the passing and running game and of Ellicott’s mistakes.
Two Panthers rushed for over 100 yards. Wesley ‘AJ’ Van Matre had 118 yards on 15 carries and one touchdown while Nikko Vallejos ran for 108 yards which included a 60 yard romp down the sidelines for a score and a 21 yard touchdown score.
Vallejos also had 58 yards in the air with no interceptions. Van Mater also had three-third and long runs called back because of penalties, otherwise his totals would have been higher. In total, the Panthers generated over 300 yards of total offense in a game plagued with several holding and personal foul calls on both side of the field.
Defensively, the biggest play of the game came off an Anthony Aldretti score of 58 yards when he stripped the ball from Thunderhawk QB Zach Crowther and ran for the score to make the score 6-0. The halftime score was 18-0.
The Panthers also recovered two fumbles and held the Thunderhawks on a fourth and goal drive at the three yard line. Samuel Harper had one tackle for a loss and Aldretti had two for a loss. Aldretti led the team with four solo tackles and seven assisted takedowns. As a team, the Panthers had a total 67 solo and assisted tackles. The Panthers take on the Rocky Ford Meloneers Saturday. The teams have identical records at 3-5 (2-2 league).
Rocky Ford has scored 186 points this season and has allowed 198. The Panthers have scored 126 points on offense and gave up 168. Rocky Ford is also coming off an impressive 47-0 trouncing of the Trinidad Miners. The match-up is statistically close, though the Meloneers like to put the ball in the air, averaging 157 yards a game.
If the Panther defense pressures quarterback, Isiah Garcia, who has 901 yards in the air, this should be a wild game. Garcia is looking to hit the 1000 yard mark and leads the league in passing. AJ Van Matre is fourth in rushing at 799 yards.
While the game has no post-season ramifications, it is for sole possession of third place behind league leading Peyton and Center, two teams who will see post season play.