Panthers snatch defeat from jaws of victory

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Panthers receiver Austin Bayles tacks on extra yards after pulling in a catch from John Walck.

By Ian MacLaren Journal staff writer

At halftime, the Panthers were ahead. Midway through the third quarter their lead had grown. And then, inexplicably, the team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, falling to the Steamboat Springs Sailors on Saturday, Sept. 27 by a score of 35-27.

Clearly fired up to begin the homecoming contest, the Panthers started strong and following a pretty interception by safety Ryan Gurney in his own end zone, the offense went to work, scoring on an 80-yard touchdown run by Randy Haley.

Following a successful point-after-attempt by Gurney, the Panthers led 7-0 with 6:46 to go in the first quarter.

The Sailors would quickly strike back, however, and following a 16-yard touchdown run on a quarterback draw by Zachary Holm and a successful point-after attempt by Joe Deline, the score was tied 7-7.

Hoping to regain the lead, the Panthers’ offense stalled and after a punt by Jonathan Walck, the Sailors scored their second touchdown when receiver Jimmy Welzheimer beat Panthers’ defensive back Nick Valdez and received a 35-yard pass from Holm for the score.

After failing to convert the point-after attempt, the Sailors led 13-7 with 1:26 to go in the first quarter.

The Panthers would rebound on their next drive, however, and following a 17-yard pass play from Walck to Gurney, Walck hooked up with Haley over the middle and the Panthers junior sprinted in for a 70-yard score.

“It was a good throw,” Haley said, describing the play. “We made that pattern from seeing what (Steamboat) did before. We switched it from a go to a post because of their safety and it worked well.”

After a Gurney extra-point following Haley’s touchdown put the Panthers ahead 14-13, the score remained the same until late in the second quarter, at which time Haley took a pitch from Walck, showed great speed and sprinted 91 yards down the left sideline for the score.

“(Steamboat’s) defense allowed us to do that toss, which helped us open up those holes and have some big runs,” said Haley, describing his long touchdown run.

Gurney would subsequently add an extra point and entering the half with a 21-13 lead, things were looking good for the Panthers.

Beginning the second half much like they finished the first, the Panthers offense went to work, driving the length of the field before eventually scoring on an 18-yard touchdown run by Walck to go ahead 27-13.

Unable to hold Steamboat’s offense in check, the Panthers yielded a long run to Mitch McCannon on a reverse and shortly after, a 5-yard scoring run by McCannon pulled the Sailors to within seven at 27-20.

At that point, the Panthers stopped running the ball and after the Sailors scored a safety to pull within 27-22 with 8:40 left, the Panthers suddenly found themselves scrambling.

The Sailors, taking advantage of an offside penalty on the Panthers’ defense on 4th and 5, took a 28-27 lead on a 9-yard touchdown run by Charles Toye.

“All that is is a lack of discipline,” said Panthers head coach Casey Coulter, describing the costly penalty. “It kind of bit us in the butt.”

Again reluctant to run the ball on their next possession, the Panthers faltered and after Walck threw an interception deep in his own territory, the Sailors scored again on a 15-yard run by McCannon to go ahead 35-27 with 1:48 to go.

Asked why his team did not run the ball after Haley was so successful in the first half, Coulter responded, “Haley was wore out after the first half. He got gassed and our next guy in is not nearly as fast as (Haley) is. Our inside run wasn’t really working and we kind of had to go to the air.”

Although the Panthers would put together a valiant drive on their last possession, it was all for not as time expired after a long pass from Walck sailed out of the back of the end zone.

“I don’t know why we didn’t come out with that win,” said Panthers’ senior Austin Bayles, discussing his team’s loss. “We were clicking on all cylinders. In that last quarter, we just fell apart.”

Leading the Panthers statistically, Walck had 210 yards passing, Haley rushed twelve times for 210 yards, and Haley caught the ball six times for 103 yards. In addition, Haley led the team in total tackles with eleven.

With the loss, the Panthers fell to 1-4 on the season while the Sailors improved to 3-2 on the year.

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