Rangely ends season with loss to Dove Creek

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RANGELY | The Panther football team’s season concluded with a loss to Dove Creek in the 8-man Colorado State Quarterfinals on Saturday, Nov. 21. The Panthers fell to a final score of 30-12. Although the Panthers did not reach the state championship game and bring home the illustrious state championship title, their season is something, according to head coach Paul Fortunato, “…that the seniors will forever be able to hang their hats on.” The Panthers were able to bring home the first outright league championship in 30 years.

Rangely will graduate a very talented group of six seniors. These six seniors include four-year starter Anthony Lujan, Austin Davis, Gabe Polley, Ryan Richens, Sydney Cole and Anthony Garner. During their high school career, these six Panthers built up a 21-14 overall record and three straight trips to the Colorado 8-man playoffs, including two trips into the state quarterfinals and one into the round of 16 teams.

Fortunato and the rest of his staff will fill those large voids left by the senior graduates in the spring and summer with workouts, but it will not be easy. Lujan, Davis, and Polley consistently for two years were in the top five in total tackles on the seasons, as their names were prevalently called throughout the games. Polley and Davis also led the very talented offensive line for two years as Lujan was the signal-caller at quarterback. Richens was a large target for Lujan and Myers at quarterback for the two seasons, and Cole is a massive body for both the offensive and defensive lines that will be replaced. Garner, who played mostly as a role player, will leave a void that he consistently looked at as the next-man-up for the Panthers his senior year

Anthony Garcia, the founder of the MileHigh Prep Report that provides coverage for schools in 2A-6-man leagues, chose numerous Panther players and coaches for season accolades for the second season in a row. To start, Coach Fortunato was named the Northwest League Coach of the Year, his second award from MileHigh Preps. Junior running back Zane Varner was named player of the year in the Northwest League MileHigh Prep Awards. He averaged 7.1 per rushing attempt with 920 total rushing yards on the year, eight rushing touchdowns, and one touchdown received on offense. On defense, Varner amassed 43 tackles and was a key player on both sides of the ball for the Panthers. Other players named this list were quarterback Keihlin Myers, FB/QB Anthony Lujan, WR Ryan Richens, OL Gabe Polley, OL Austin Davis, and OL Byron Mackay. The Panthers defense was also recognized, with five members being chosen. Gabe Polley, Austin Davis, junior Timothy Scoggins, and sophomore Marstan Wagner were all picked by Garcia for the all-defense team.

Members of all classes well represented the Panthers season accolades, and this is something to be excited and proud of for every member of the Panther football team. The Panthers will not rebuild from this year and vacated spots by graduating seniors, but instead, they will re-load for the 2021 campaign. The depth and talent in the upcoming classes excite the Panther coaching staff.

The Rangely Panthers football team would like to send a special thank you to every parent involved or represented in the program. Without your support, the dream of this league championship season would not have been achieved. Another special thank you from the coaching staff is sent out to the Rangely Panther Pride Booster Club. This wonderful group of parents met weekly to provide team dinners to the football team, blowing up and taking down the large inflatable helmet and hanging the booster member banners seen every home game at Yeager Field. Thank you to everyone involved in the 2021 football season, from administration members to community members, who showed us their fantastic support all season long. Without you, our dreams are not possible.