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RANGELY I The Del Norte Tigers, more than six hours from the south-central part of the state for their first game in the 8-man division, played the hometown Rangely Panthers and were sent on a long trip home after a 30-26 defeat.
“They did what it took to win,” Panther head coach Paul Fortunato said of his team’s first victory of the season.
The Panthers received the opening kickoff and senior fullback Ethan Allred set the tone as he was first to break away on a 45-yard run and score Rangely’s first touchdown halfway through the first quarter. Kiki Ruiz added the two-point conversion to give his team an 8-0 lead.
Rangely’s defense forced the Tigers to punt after their first three downs and a long throw from quarterback Kaulan Brady to senior Kelton Elam set up another touchdown run by Allred. Rangely could not convert on the extra point and led 14-0 with two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
The Panthers again forced the Tigers to punt, and, and after a big run by Ruiz, Rangely punted for the first time, two minutes into the second quarter.
The Tigers started to drive, but Rangely’s defense stepped up again, this time Allred caused a fumble in the backfield, which was recovered by Ruiz. The Panthers made it to the three-yard line, where they too lost a fumble. But on the next play, Allred sacked the Thunderbolt quarterback in the end zone for a two-point safety, giving the Panthers a 16-0 lead.
Rangely received the punt but could not get a first down and turned the ball over with 1:12 left to play in the first half.
The Tigers quickly capitalized with a 75-yard touchdown pass but did not convert the extra points. The half ended with the Panthers leading 16-6.
Del Norte received the second-half kickoff, but Rangely’s Jesse Powell recovered a fumble, which the Panthers could not capitalize on, punting the ball back to the Tigers, who did capitalize with another long touchdown pass.
Allred started pounding the Tigers’ defensive line, running the ball five times in a row and the Panthers advanced to the one-yard line before fumbling the ball on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The Tigers moved the ball out to the 10 yard line before a third bomb for a touchdown and a two-point lead.
Rangely drove the ball down again inside the five yard line and this time Ruiz ran in for a touchdown. The attempted point after was not successful.
Rangely’s Freddie Ruiz got a sack, but it didn’t stop the Tigers as they scored on another long touchdown pass, converted the extra points and took a 26-22 lead with four minutes to play in the game.
Allred’s hard running had softened up the Tiger defense and the senior fullback ran in for the game winning touchdown from 50 yards out. Elam caught the two-point conversion from Brady. It was also Brady who ended any comeback threat as he intercepted the ball with just more than a minute to play.
Allred ran the ball 19 times for 121 yards, three touchdowns and led the Panthers on defense with 11 tackles, one sack and one safety. Allred also blocked for Ruiz, who rushed 194 yards on 29 carries, scored one touchdown and one two-point conversions. Brady was five yards short of 100 yards rushing and completed three passes for 52 yards.
The Panthers host the Mancos Bluejays on Friday on Yeager Field with kickoff at 7 p.m.