Panthers outlast Eagles in triple-overtime

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RHS junior Austin Davis reaches for an interception.

RANGELY | The Panthers came out on top of a very exciting game against the Gilpin County Eagles last weekend, coming out on top 60-54 after nine lead changes. The Eagles were coming off their first win this season against the Hayden Tigers, 40-0. Needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Panthers were looking to avenge a loss to the Soroco Rams.

The Panthers pregame Rating Percentage Index (RPI) was 12th in the 8-man state classification.

Anthony Lujan put the Panthers on his back in the first offensive series carrying the ball 10 out of 12 plays and putting the Panthers up 6-0. The two-point conversion failed for the Panthers as Zane Varner was stopped short of the goal line on the completion from Lujan. On the ensuing drive for the Eagles, the Panthers stopped the Eagles and forced a fourth down, but Eagles quarterback Blake Boulter found Stephen King for a 36-yard touchdown pass. The Eagles then completed a pass on the two-point conversion to put the score in their favor at 8-6. The Eagles then put the kickoff into the endzone.

With the Panthers setting up shop at their 20-yard line, the Eagles saw a mixture of great runs by both Lujan and Varner. Lujan rushed for seven, 39 and 14 yards on three carries as Varner ran for 20 and seven. The Panthers took the lead again on Lujan’s 14-yard run. The Panthers failed on the two-point conversion and were up 12-8. The Eagles’ Boulter found King again with a 60-yard pass completion to put the Eagles back up 14-12 to end the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Lujan scored 14 points with touchdown runs of one and seven yards. The Eagles continued to connect through the air from Boulter to King for 44 yards and the score. The Panthers responded with a score of their own when Lujan punched in his fourth touchdown of the game to put the Panthers back on top. The Panthers then recovered an onside kick when freshman kicker Marstan Wagner kicked the ball to the second level of the Eagles return and the Eagles returner fumbled. RHS senior Hunter Hanvey was able to secure the fumble. The Panthers did not capitalize on the fumble recovery. With a successful two-point conversion the game headed into halftime 26-22, Panthers lead.

In the third quarter, the Panthers forced the Eagles to turn the ball over on downs. The drive was cut short when sophomore Timothy Scoggins sacked Boulter for a six-yard loss. The Panthers did not respond on offense as they went three-and-out on their possession. The Panthers forced the Eagles to turn the ball over on downs sparking the RHS offense. Varner recorded his second rushing touchdown on the eighth play to put the Panthers up 34-22. King and his Eagles teammates took the next kickoff that was squib kicked by the Panthers 60 yards to the house to bring the score to 34-28, Panthers.

The fourth quarter was no let down for fans as the Panthers and the Eagles traded score for score. The Eagles had three touchdowns to the Panthers two. The Panthers had two touchdowns called back due to costly penalties during the fourth quarter. One penalty came on a 76-yard kickoff return by junior Ryan Richens as the Panthers were called for an illegal hit. The next came on a 44-yard run by Richens but the run was negated by a hold on the end of the line. These two penalties proved to be costly for the Panthers as the Eagles took the lead with less than one minute left in the game. As the Eagles attempted to score their two-point conversion and put themselves up 50-48 the Panthers defense came up with what can be considered a season-saving tackle by Wagner. Wagner kept King out of the endzone on the conversion attempt and kept the scored tied. The Panthers moved the ball 46 yards on their next drive but ran out of time on the Eagles 22-yard line. The game then headed into its first overtime.

In the first overtime, the Panthers won the coin toss and elected to be on defense first. On the Eagles first play the handoff was stripped out of Jesse Alexander’s arms by the Panthers Hanvey. Hanvey recovered the fumble and ended the Eagles try in the first overtime. On offense the Panthers could end the game with any type of score from the 10-yard line. Varner rushed the ball twice for seven yards and the Panthers faced a third down and goal from the 3-yard line. Unfortunately, a fumbled snap exchange recovered by the Eagles forced a second overtime.

In the second overtime, on their first play, Varner took a pitch around the left side to put the Panthers up 54-48. The Panthers were unsuccessful on their two-point attempt. On the Eagles first play in the second overtime, a holding penalty force the Eagles to start on the 20-yard line. The Eagles tied it up on a 20-yard scamper by Boulter. On the two-point conversion, Hanvey broke through the Gilpin offensive line and tackle King in the backfield to keep the Panthers’ hopes alive. This forced the game into a third overtime.

With the Panthers starting on defense, the Eagles’ Boulter rolled out to his right looking for an open receiver in the end zone. The Panthers’ defensive line forced Boulter to throw his pass earlier than he intended and Rangely’s Austin Davis intercepted. Varner forced his way forward for three yards, setting up Richens to take the handoff on the right side and break into the endzone for a Rangely 60-54 victory in three overtimes.

Lujan led the Panthers offensively with 279 yards rushing on 37 attempts and five touchdowns. Lujan also completed seven of his 16 passes for 82 yards. Varner racked up 125 yards on 25 carries while scoring two touchdowns. Richens added 51 yards rushing on four carries and two touchdowns scored. The Panthers rushed for a total of 455 yards against the Eagles. Defensively the Panthers were led by Lujan with 16 tackles. Scoggins added in 14 tackles and Hanvey recorded 11. Davis added to his interception total to bring him to five interceptions on the year. The Panthers will have a short week for their final regular-season game that will take place in Rangely on Thursday, Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. against the visiting Plateau Valley Cowboys. With a win against the Cowboys, the Panthers will have a good chance of receiving an at large bid for the Colorado 8-man state playoffs. The Panthers remained at  No. 12 in the RPI following the victory against the Eagles.

Matt Scoggins Photo

Special to the Herald Times