RANGELY | The Rangely High School Panther football team traveled to Gypsum, Colorado to take on the Vail Christian Saints for each of the team’s Western Slope League opener on Sept. 20. The Panthers came into the game with a 3-0 mark on the season by defeating Norwood in week one, Dove Creek in week two and Del Norte in week three. The Saints defeated Front Range Christian in week one and Norwood in week two. This was the eighth time the Panthers and Saints had squared off against each other with the Saints holding a 7-2 mark over the Panthers. The Panthers defeated the Saints 46-22 in Rangely last year while both teams qualified for the Colorado 8-man, 16-team state playoff bracket.
The game started in a very physical manner that both the Saints and the Panthers like. Unfortunately, on the first defensive play of the game senior Tytus Coombs had to be removed from play with a left knee injury and did not return for the Panthers. Coombs leadership and skill on the field was missed as the offense sputtered on their first two offensive possessions as they were forced to punt. The Saints scored on their first possession but were unsuccessful in converting the extra point and led 0-6 after the first quarter.
In the second quarter the Panther defense held strong as they forced two straight turnovers on downs and one forced fumble. After the forced fumble the Panther offense marched the ball down with physical offensive line play by juniors Gabe Polley and Austin Davis and sophomore center Byron Mackay. Sophomore Zane Varner broke two tackles on his way to a 28-yard run for a touchdown to tie the game up for the Panthers. Junior quarterback Anthony Lujan completed a short pass to fellow junior Ryan Richens in the end zone for a successful two-point conversion and the Panthers led 8-6 with 4:18 left in the second quarter. The Saints answered back with a touchdown and a successful two-point conversion to put the score to 14-8 at halftime.
In the third quarter the Saints offense continued to roll as they stretched the score to 26-14 while stuffing the Panther offense. The Panthers brought the game back into reach after trailing 34-8 in the fourth quarter. Anthony Lujan punched the ball into the endzone for the Panthers after the Panthers forced a Saints fumble to end the third quarter. Senior running back Justin Rusher brought the Panthers to the Saints one-yard line and Lujan gained the one yard for the score. Lujan again completed a pass to Ryan Richens for the successful two-point conversion to bring the score to 34-16 in favor of the Saints. On the ensuing kickoff, Ryan Richens hit a Vail Christian front line player with the ball and recovered the ball for the Panthers. The Panthers scored again bringing the score to the final 34-22 mark.
The Panthers have their bye week and will travel to West Grand on Friday, Oct. 4.
Special to the Herald Times