Panthers best Saints, chase Western Slope league championship

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Senior Gabe Polley (90) takes down a Vail Christian Saint during Friday’s game. The Panthers won 24-8 and only one home game stands between them and a Western Slope league championship. The team will take on the Gilpin County Eagles this Friday at 7 p.m. | MATT SCOGGINS PHOTO

RBC | The Rangely Panther football team hosted the Saints from Vail Christian on Friday, Nov. 6. The Saints had one goal in mind: to defeat the Panthers and disrupt any playoff momentum that the Panthers had going. The Saints appeared to be achieving this after the first quarter when they shutout the Panthers and led 8-0. The Saints connected on a 74-yard touchdown pass and then punched in the two-point conversion. The Panthers were able to keep the Saints to minimal rushing yards to start the game and forced turnover-on-downs, but an interception in the red zone led the Saints to score their lone touchdown.

The Panther offense started firing on all cylinders in the second quarter as the defense forced an interception by junior Keihlin Myers, and the Panthers took over and drove the ball 73 yards for the touchdown. Senior Ryan Richens scored the first of his two touchdowns as he took a handoff and raced around the left side of the offense for 17 yards and the score. Junior Zane Varner added the two-point conversion to tie the ball game up. The Panthers added their second score of the quarter when Ryan Richens caught a screen pass from Myers and raced down the sideline after two key blocks by senior Austin Davis and sophomore Marstan Wagner’s 69-yard touchdown. Varner then added the two-point conversion to put the Panthers up 16-8 at halftime.

The Panthers received the second-half kickoff, and the Saints defense proved to be challenging for the third quarter as each team was able to move the ball but not score. Senior Gabe Polley and junior Timothy Scoggins kept the Saints backfield in peril as they continually pressured the Saints quarterback into early throws and incompletions. Polley added one sack to his season resume, and Scoggins sacked the quarterback five times to lead the state in sacks for the week.

In the fourth quarter, as each team showed their physical prowess on defense, the Panthers were able to secure their second interception of the night as Richens snatched the Saints pass out of the air. On the next offensive play, Varner ran for a 27-yard score to put the Panthers up 22-8. Senior quarterback Anthony Lujan punched in the two-point conversion to push the score to 24-8, and that was the final score for the game as well.
Varner continued to add to his outstanding season as he ran the ball 22 times for 188 yards, one touchdown, and two two-point conversions. Varner has now totaled 818 yards on 106 carries and eight touchdowns for the Panthers. The powerful rushing attack would not be possible without the great offensive line that the Panthers boast each week. Junior Byron Mackay, seniors Polley and Davis make up the interior line for the Panthers and create huge holes for the Panther ball carriers to get through. Junior tight ends Justin Cudo and Scoggins do a great job in sealing off the defensive backs and help the ball carriers get to pay-dirt.

The Panthers were led defensively by Polley, who amassed nine solo tackles and four half-tackles. Three of Polley’s tackles were tackles for loss. Lujan and Scoggins added seven total tackles, and five of Scoggins’ tackles were sacks on the Saints quarterback. Varner added five tackles to his excellent defense with Richens and freshman Kobey Chism who were tasked with shutting down a good passing game from the Saints.
The Panthers will conclude their regular-season schedule with a home game against the Gilpin County Eagles on Saturday, Nov. 14. A win against the Eagles will give the Panthers the 8-man Western Slope League championship crown and a berth into the 8-team playoff bracket. The game will start at 1 p.m.