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RANGELY I This season, when his players take the field for a game, Tim Galloway never knows which team will show up.
Friday night it was the team that showed up against Hotchkiss and Aspen. Both blowout losses.
It certainly wasn’t the team that showed signs of the old Panther fighting spirit in a one-point loss to Hayden.
The result Friday wasn’t pretty. A 46-0 lopsided loss to county rival Meeker.
“I don’t think we were real ready to play, period,” said first-year coach Galloway. “We’ve done that the whole year. The games we’ve gotten blown out in, we’ve been intimidated. This group of kids, they let their minds take advantage of them.”
Then it may have really messed with the Panthers’ minds when Meeker returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Things went downhill from there.
“Like I told the kids, the team that played at Meeker was not the same team that played Hayden (a 7-6 loss the week before),” Galloway said. “If we’re the team that showed up for Hayden, we’re OK. If we’re the team that showed up for Meeker or Hotchkiss, we’re in trouble. It’s Katy, bar the door. My kids are really a Jekyll and Hyde. I don’t know which group will show up.”
Due to injury, ineligibility and sickness, Rangely only had 21 players available for Friday’s game.
“We were that way most of the week,” Galloway said of the lower-than-usual numbers. “We had coaches out there playing, because we just didn’t have the numbers.
“But even if we had had the numbers, even if we had been healthy, I don’t know if we’d have played better,” Galloway added. “Meeker has a good team. They have a solid club.”
The loss dropped Rangely to 1-6 on the season, while the Cowboys are just the opposite, improving to 6-1. Meeker is the sort of team Galloway hopes the Panthers will develop into someday … and sooner, rather than later.
“Next year, or the year after that, hopefully we can be a team like that,” Galloway said.
All of the scoring Friday came in the first half. Meeker substituted liberally in the second half.
“Shane (Phelan, Meeker’s head coach) is a good guy. He started bringing in a lot of JV kids,” Galloway said. “We started playing some of our younger kids, too, lettin’ ’em get some reps.”
But Meeker’s size, speed and experience proved too much for the Panthers.
“I’ve got a junior starting at corner, who’s never really played before, and I’ve got a sophomore who doesn’t have a lot of experience playing at that position. We put those guys back there on an island. They had to sink or swim, and they sank,” Galloway said. “We put eight guys in the box, because we knew Meeker liked to run. They have a couple (of running backs) who are probably bigger than anybody we have on our whole team, and they’re seniors. When you’ve got a 150-pounder trying to tackle a 205-pounder, that makes it kind of tough. And they threw the ball better than we thought they would.”
The important issue now for the Panthers, Galloway said, is to remain upbeat.
“The big thing is to stay positive, and to try and get a couple of wins out of these last two (remaining) games, and hopefully end on a high note,” Galloway said of the Panthers’ last games of the season against West Grand and Paonia.
Friday’s game against West Grand will be Rangely’s final home game. The Panthers close out the season the following week at Paonia. Making the playoffs is out of the question, at this point.
“It’s done; it’s over,” Galloway said of the Panthers’ chances. “We can’t do anything about that now. We knew that if we won our last three games, and we got some help, we’d have a shot at the playoffs. But, after that one (against Meeker), it’s done now. There’s no chance, so that’s kind of disheartening.”
West Grand, the Panthers’ opponent Friday, suffered a similar fate against Meeker. The Cowboys dominated West Grand earlier this month, 56-0.
“We match up pretty even with them,” Galloway said of the Mustangs. “It should be a pretty good ballgame.”
Asked how he thought his team would respond after Friday’s game, Galloway said a one-sided loss can actually be easier to accept than a close one.
“Getting beat 7-6 the week before (against Hayden) is worse than getting beat 46-0,” Galloway said. “When you get beat 46-0, you know there’s a lot to work on. But when you get beat 7-6, you second guess yourself.”
Even though the Panthers may not be where Galloway hoped they would be at this point in the season, he said there’s still much to be accomplished in the final two games.
“I haven’t seen anybody getting down or quittin’,” Galloway said.
Even in last Friday’s game against Meeker, the Panther coach said his team played hard.
“Our kids still fought. They were still fightin’ at the end. They didn’t give up,” Galloway said. “It was just a case of being outmanned, I guess.”