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MEEKER I It didn’t take long for first-year football coach Jeff Palmer to figure out the cross-county rivalry with Rangely was a big deal.
Like before he even was hired.
“When I was getting interviewed, they said you either beat Rangely or get fired,” Palmer said. “They said it and laughed, but I think it was half joking and half serious. Like, hey, this is the game you have to win.
“Even when I met some of the parents, one of the first questions they asked was, ‘Are you gonna beat Rangely?’ So I knew right then it was a rivalry.”
Palmer’s job should be secure, because Meeker beat rival Rangely 39-8 last Friday, spoiling homecoming for the Panthers.
Meeker hopes to avoid the same disappointment. This is homecoming week for the Cowboys, who will host Hayden on Friday. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Starbuck Stadium.
“At the beginning of the year, I told the team there are four games you have to win. The home opener, the conference opener, the rivalry game and homecoming,” Palmer said. “We’ve won all three. Hopefully we can go four for four.”
Not only is this homecoming week for Meeker, but Friday’s game has important playoff and Western Slope League implications.
“If we win, this pretty much secures us a spot in the playoffs,” Palmer said. “And we still have a shot at the conference championship, if Hotchkiss beats Paonia and then we beat Hotchkiss (in the regular-season finale). So there’s a lot riding on this game.”
In order to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot, Meeker (5-2 overall and 2-1 in the league) needed to rebound against Rangely, after being shut out two weeks ago 37-0 by Paonia.
“It was a grinding kind of victory, but it was good to get back on the winning track,” Palmer said.
The Meeker coach said his team may have overlooked Rangely based on its record, but the Cowboys found out the Panthers (0-7 after Friday’s loss) still had plenty of fight left in them.
“I think our kids may have walked into it looking at Rangely’s record, but they (the Panthers) came to play,” Palmer said.
As has been the pattern in most of the its games this season, Meeker jumped out to a big first-half lead, scoring four times to go on top 26-6 at halftime.
Four different players scored for the Cowboys in the first half — Ryan Wix on a 5-yard run, Alema Atoafa on a 4-yard run, Cole Steiner on a 3-yard pass from Nate Walsh and Jake Nieslanik on a 20-yard pass from Walsh.
“Thirteen points a quarter. We’ll take that,” Palmer said. “If we do that every game, we’ll take our chances winning the game.”
Rangely scored its only touchdown of the game in the second quarter, though the Panthers did record a safety in the third quarter.
Meeker scored two more times in the second half, with Wix scoring again on a 9-yard run and Steiner catching another TD pass from Walsh.