Physical Palisade team overwhelms Panthers
Cortez travels to undefeated Rifle Sept. 20
When a tough, smash-mouth brand of football arrived at Panther Stadium on Sept. 13 courtesy of the Palisade Bulldogs, the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers were in no way ready.
Shocked and awed by the sheer physicality of the Bulldogs’ style of play, the Panthers were dominated from start to finish in route to a 47-0 loss. With the loss, the Panthers fell to 1-2 on year while the win improved the Bulldogs’ record to 3-0.
Beginning the game with an offensive possession that would end like so many others, the Panthers were forced to punt after junior Jonathan Walck was unable to complete a pass to sophomore Austin Bayles.
After a nice punt by Walck pinned the Bulldogs inside their 20-yard line, Palisade’s offense immediately went to work. Following a series of solid runs by ball carriers Easton Woods, Dalton Hannigan and Levi Hoaglund, the Bulldogs scored their first touchdown of the night on a 24-yard pass from Hoaglund to tight end Jack Millard.
After a successful point-after attempt by David Combs, which put the Bulldogs up 7-0, the Panthers’ offense again received the ball and again went three and out.
“(Palisade) was just more physical,” said Panthers’ junior Dante Dennison, describing the Panthers’ early struggles. “We didn’t really want it. We came out kind of flat and they just wanted it more.”
Although the Panthers’ defense would hold the Bulldogs’ out of the end zone on their next possession, thanks to a fourth-down sack by Kyle Kennel, the hometown offense would again stall, setting up the Bulldogs for their next score.
Taking over at their own 42-yard line to open the second quarter, the Bulldogs moved the ball to their own 49 before handing the ball to Hannigan, who, after starting left, cut back to the middle and raced to the end zone for a 51-yard score.
Another successful extra-point attempt by Combs put the Bulldogs’ ahead 14-0, and although the Panthers were only down two touchdowns, the hometown team was clearly on its heels.
“They were more mentally in the game than we were,” said Panthers’ sophomore David Skaggs. “We didn’t go out there and put in our all.”
After again failing to effectively move the ball on their next possession, a bad snap over Walck’s head on a punt attempt led to a Bulldogs’ safety. After a 35-yard field goal by Combs on the ensuing possession and a 90-yard run by Woods later in the second quarter, the Bulldogs’ led 26-0 at the half.
After a series of running plays to begin the third quarter in which Panthers’ defensive lineman were driven backwards off the snap, Hannigan scored his second rushing touchdown of the game on a 43-yard scamper. After another successful point-after by Combs put the Bulldogs’ ahead 33-0, Panthers players could not help but question the play of the team’s defensive line.
“It’s really hard for us linebackers when we have a lot of offensive lineman in our face,” said Skaggs, describing one of the reasons why the Bulldogs were able to run so effectively. “If the line is not physically and mentally there, it makes it hard on us.”
After another ineffective possession by the Panthers’ offense, the Bulldogs’ running game struck again, this time on a 50-yard running play by Hannigan. Another successful point-after by Combs put the Bulldogs ahead 40-0 with 6:44 to go in the third quarter.
Playing against many of the Bulldogs’ backup players, the Panthers were able to keep the Bulldogs in check for the remainder of the game with the exception of a 21-yard touchdown run by Cody Latham and an extra point by Combs, which put Palisade up 47-0.
Although Panthers’ head coach Casey Coulter declined an opportunity to comment following his team’s one-sided loss, Panthers players willingly discussed what went wrong.
“There are some guys that are playing really great, working their butts off,” said Dennison. “There are other guys who are just kind of slacking off, going through the motions, and that’s what hurts us.”
“We have to get our head in the game and get focused,” added Panthers’ sophomore Ryan Gurney. “We have to play faster and more physical.”
Statistical leaders for the Panthers included Walck with 64 passing yards, Haley with 30 rushing yards, Taj Fredricks with 35 receiving yards and Gurney with 10 total tackles.
Up next for the Panthers, things will not get easier as the team travels to Rifle to play a perennially tough, and currently undefeated, Bears’ squad on Sept. 20.
“We just need to regroup and get ready for (Rifle),” said Panthers’ junior Jonathan Walck. “Rifle is going to be a tough game too. We just need to keep working and clean up the little things.”
Sam Green/Cortez Journal