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RANGELY I If only the game had been called at halftime.
Rangely dominated Grand Junction Central’s junior varsity in the first half Saturday, controlling the ball and scoring twice to go into the intermission with a 14-0 lead.
However, the second half was all Central. And that proved to be the half that mattered.
The Panthers — playing in their season and home opener and their first game under new coach Tim Galloway — lost the tale of two halves, 16-14.
“The kids played well,” Galloway said. “But I think they played in the second half not so much to win, but more not to lose. They came out and were a little apprehensive and tentative. They needed to stay aggressive.”
Rangely was plenty aggressive in the first half, mounting long drives, chewing up a lot of clock, and culminating in two Patrick Phelan touchdown passes.
“The first half, we played the kind of ball we’ve been preaching to the kids — ball control and smash-mouth football,” Galloway said.
Phelan, a senior quarterback, completed 8 of 17 passes for 99 yards, the two scores — a 1-yarder to Brandon Gray and a 20-yarder to Ethan Peacock — and had one interception, according to the online sports statistics service VarVee.
Cole Barlow was the Panthers’ leading rusher for the game with 78 yards on 19 carries, while Phelan scrambled for 34 yards on 18 carries.
The Panthers scored once in each of the first two quarters, but were shut out in the second half. Central, meanwhile scored in both the third and fourth quarters, adding two two-point conversions, which proved to be the difference.
Rangely had a shot to win the game at the end, getting the ball back with 1:26 left. However, Phelan’s fourth-down pass to Adam Dahl fell incomplete with 11 ticks remaining on the clock.
“Because we were so behind (starting preseason practice later than other teams), we don’t have our full offense in,” Galloway said. “The last two minutes, we were kind of drawing plays up on the field.”
Rangely, which won two games last season, will play its second game Friday, also at home, against Aspen.
“These kids are so used to losing, when they get a bad break they’re not quite sure how to overcome that,” Galloway said. “Aspen is a good, solid program. They’ll pound the ball, nothing real fancy. We’re in for a tough go, but we’ll fight ’em all we can. The kids will have to step up and play.”