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RANGELY | What better night for some high school football in Rio Blanco County than on a cold Halloween night in Rangely, Colorado. This game saw temperatures hover around 20 degrees at kickoff and plummet to single digits by the time the final horn sounded in a Rangely Panthers victory over the Plateau Valley Cowboys 36-14. Your Panthers were looking to cap off their regular season and Parent Appreciation Night where the team honored all players, managers and coaches and their families for the great sacrifices that they make for their son to play, their daughters to manage and the families of the coaches to coach. The Rangely High School football coaches would like to thank all the parents, legal guardians, families and administrators for allowing them to spend time with the great athletes of the football team at RHS. With a win, the Panthers would stay in contention for an at large berth into the Colorado 8-man state playoff brackets. The win would put the Panthers at 3-3 in the Northwest 8-man League and 6-3 overall. Rangely entered the game with a Ratings Index Percentage (RPI) of 12 of the 8-man football teams in the state of Colorado.
This was the first Thursday game for the entire Rangely football team as they started off to a sluggish start giving up 14 points on five plays to the 1-7 Plateau Valley Cowboys. The Panthers failed to respond on their first offensive possession as they were forced to put after an early snap cost the Panthers a loss of 17 yards. The Panthers defense responded in their third stand and the Cowboys elected to punt on fourth down and long. Junior Ryan Richens took the punt and raced up the middle of the field from a key block by sophomore Timothy Scoggins—74 yards to put the Panthers on the board for the first time of the night. The Panthers failed to convert their two-point conversion play and the score stood at 6-14 in favor of the Cowboys.
The Panthers defense stood tall on the next possession for the Cowboys as senior Hunter Hanvey forced a Cowboys fumble and recovered the fumble himself. Sophomore running back Zane Varner carried the ball 19 yards for the Panthers to set the Panthers up with a first and goal from the Cowboys 10-yard line. Four plays later and strong goal-line stand by the Cowboys stopped the Panthers drive in its tracks and the Cowboys set up their offense on their three-yard line. The Panthers defense showed its grit and was able to force a turnover on downs after the Cowboys managed to move the football 47 yards on eight plays.
Junior quarterback Anthony Lujan locked on to his receiving targets nicely in the Panthers ensuing drive and led the Panthers to another score. Lujan completed passes to Richens for 13 yards, junior Austin Davis for 12 yards, and Varner for 27 yards to put the score at 12-14 in favor of the Cowboys in the second quarter. On the touchdown pass to Varner, the Cowboys were flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and the Panthers elected to enforce the penalty on the kickoff.
Freshman kicker Marstan Wagner lined the ball up as the Panthers decided for an onside kick with the short field advantage from the Cowboy penalty. The Panthers did not recover the kick and the Cowboys set their offense on the 35-yard line. On the Cowboys’ first offensive play of the drive, Varner came up from his linebacker position and recorded a sack and caused a fumble that was recovered by junior Gabe Polley on the Cowboys 31-yard line. Lujan continued to stay hot through the air and connected on two of his three pass attempts, both to Richens for a Panthers touchdown. Richens then ran the ball around the left end for the two-point conversion to put the score at 20-14 in favor of the Panthers heading into halftime.
The Panthers received the second half kick-off and delivered a steady dose of between tackle runs. Lujan capped the drive with a two-yard rushing touchdown. Richens then followed the touchdown with a successful two-point conversion that put the Panthers up 28-14 in the third quarter.
The Panthers’ defense was not to be outdone by the offense in the third quarter as Varner intercepted the Cowboy pass on the Cowboys’ 48-yard line and then scampered 12 yards to the Cowboys 36-yard line. The Panther offense failed to take advantage of the short field position and gave the ball back to the Cowboys on a turnover of downs on the Cowboys 26-yard line. In some back and forth action the defense forced a four and out for the Cowboys and gave the Panthers offense the ball back on the Cowboys 45-yard line.
Lujan found Richens for a 37-yard pass on a third down and six to keep the Panthers drive alive. Richens capped the drive off with a four-yard touchdown and Lujan found junior Austin Davis on the two-point conversion to put the Panthers up comfortably, 36-14. The Panthers had responded to their sluggish start with 36 unanswered points against the Cowboys. The Panthers secured their sixth win of the season and third win in the Northwest 8-man League.
With this win, the Panthers have secured a playoff berth for the second year in a row. The Panthers will play Dayspring Christian Academy in Greeley on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 1 p.m.
Special to the Herald Times