Mountains

Panthers go down with fight

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Panthers quarterback Tallon Ralstin passes Friday night in the Durango game at Panther Stadium.

By Bobby Abplanalp Journal staff writer

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Conference realignment in college football has been prevalent the last couple years.

So, too, has league realignment in high school football in Colorado. A changing landscape that changed the football rivalry between Montezuma-Cortez High School and Durango High School.

Now that the Panthers moved back up to the 3A Western Slope League, they were able to play the 4A Demons in nonconference action.

The teams last met on Sept. 14, 2001 at Panther Stadium. Durango left town with an easy 48-0 victory.

Eleven years later, the Demons left Panther Stadium with another win.

It’s been since 1978 when M-CHS last beat its chief rival (a 35-0 win). Although the Panthers gave a good fight and were often the more physical team, the Demons were again better. M-CHS lost 34-10 in the season finale for both schools.

“I told the seniors, ‘Us seniors have no tomorrow. We have nothing more to live for. But tonight, we need to go out there and we need to give it everything. We can’t leave anything in the locker room. We need to leave it all out on the field,’” said M-CHS senior quarterback Tallon Ralstin, who started in place of injured sophomore Jonathan Walck.

The Panthers (1-9) sported their 1990s throwback uniforms of orange pants, and black shirts and helmets. M-CHS moved the ball early and often throughout the contest, but couldn’t sustain drives on a cold November night.

“By far that’s the most physical we’ve played. That’s our best all-around ballgame,” Panthers coach Casey Coulter said. “Yeah, I know the score doesn’t show it. But if you were watching this game, you saw what we were capable of doing. A couple missed field goals, a touchdown not in, that’s an 11-point ballgame. That’s a good (Durango) football team right there.”

Two missed Alex Lopez field goals on the first two drives spelled doom for M-CHS. The Demons (4-6) scored a touchdown on its first drive and never trailed, as Durango earned some pride after a difficult losing season.

M-CHS took the game’s opening drive confidently down the field, much to the delight of the sparse home crowd. Ralstin sprinted 30 yards down the left sideline to the Durango 29. The Panthers moved forward to the 25, but stalled. Lopez’s 42-yard field goal came up short and the roadies responded.

Durango went on a timely 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive keeping the ball on the ground mostly. One big play came on a 30-yard pass from Demons QB Hayden Sill to Demetre Cullison. Four plays later, Sill ran a 2-yard touchdown. His point after attempt made it 7-0 Durango.

The Panthers again went on a promising drive. Starting at their own 19, Ralstin would find Lopez on a 10-yard pass for a first down at the 44. Three plays later, Ralstin completed a 21-yard strike to Dakota Gossen that set up first-and-10 at the Durango 17. But a bad snap sailed over Ralstin’s head to thwart the drive. Lopez’s second field goal missed from 37 yards.

The Demons took a 14-0 lead into halftime when Sill through a bubble screen to Blake Dunlap that was executed well for a 15-yard TD. Sill’s PAT was good.

In the third, Demons’ workhorse tailback Tyler Worley capped his team’s opening second half drive with a 30-yard TD run to up the score 21-0.

Durango went for the knockout punch with an onside kick recovery. But the Demons touched the ball before it went 10 yards, which gave M-CHS possession at midfield.

The Panthers made Durango pay.

Angered by the onside kick attempt, Ralstin took the snap, ran over a defender — gone. The QB took the rock 50 yards to paydirt to spring some life into the Panthers. Lopez’s PAT cut the score to 21-7.

However, Durango countered with a 75-yard scoring drive. Daniel Gustavson caught a 16-yard TD toss from Sill to up the margin at 28-7.

Lopez would connect on a 38-yard field goal on the Panthers next drive to get M-CHS within 28-10.

The Demons hit back on their following drive when Gustavson grabbed his second TD pass from four yards out. Sill’s extra point was blocked, as the score read 34-10.

M-CHS tried to tack more points on the board. It drove to the Durango 2 late in the fourth quarter. But on fourth-and-goal, Ralstin was stopped at the 1-yard line resulting in the final score.

“Overall team effort, I’m very proud of them,” Coulter said. “I’m proud to say I’m their coach. We’re still building. We look forward to playing them again next year. It will be a good game again.”

Ralstin passed 8-of-21 for 89 yards and with two interceptions, but rushed 11 times for 119 yards and a score. Goosen caught two passes for 30 yards, while fellow senior Trenton Gustafson recorded a game high 18 tackles.

“This whole entire year, we’ve been getting better and better,” said Ralstin, who hopes to play college baseball. “I wish we could have started this intense earlier on in the season. We would have a lot more wins, but things happen. You lose some guys to injury, but the team really stepped it up when they needed to. This team is going to go somewhere in a couple years.”

Durango was led by Worley, who ran for 245 yards on 24 carries with a TD. Dunlap snared six catches for 102 yards and a TD.

M-CHS will play at Durango in 2013 to conclude next season.

bobbya@cortezjournal.com.

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