After a light pole fell into the stands at its home stadium and caused significant damage, the Montezuma-Cortez High School football team migrated to Dolores High School’s field for its home opener against Bloomfield on Aug. 24.
The change of venue did not change the Panthers’ recent fortunes in season-opening games, however, as the orange-and-black clad group fell to 0-1 for the fourth consecutive season after a 20-6 loss.
Among the positives for M-CHS and its fans was the performance of the team’s defense, which stymied several Bloomfield scoring chances during a first quarter that was played mostly in the Cortez red zone.
A large reason for the defense’s success was attributable to the outstanding play of senior defensive ends Swayde Noyes and Cordell Baer, who wreaked havoc on Bloomfield’s offensive line and pressured Bloomfield quarterback Rogelio Gonzales throughout the contest. Baer had four sacks in the game, and Noyes had two.
“All night long, the defense played hard, but we just kept giving (Bloomfield) short fields,” M-CHS head coach Scott Conklin said. “(Noyes and Baer) were tough all night long. They caused Bloomfield to have a lot of holding penalties because they worked so hard. When it came down to it, we played with heart, and we stopped (Bloomfield) quite a bit in the red zone.”
While M-CHS’s defense stood tall throughout much of the contest, the Panthers offense struggled to score, in part because of ill-advised penalties and dropped passes. Senior quarterback Ike Dennison stood tall in the face of pressure on several occasions while completing 11 of his 21 passes for 142 yards and one touchdown.
“We moved the ball around, but we just had some untimely errors,” Conklin said. “We had a few mental mistakes, and we have a few basic things to work on. Bloomfield was a tough team, and they brought a lot of pressure.”
Bloomfield’s first score of the contest came with 8:16 left in the second quarter when Gonzales rolled to his left and completed a pass to Jesse Wortman in the end zone to put the Bobcats ahead 6-0.
Bloomfield extended its lead to 12-0 when Gonzales ran into the end zone on a 6-yard option play with 2:34 left in the second quarter and the Bobcats pulled ahead 18-0 with 10:09 left in the fourth quarter when Gonzales raced into the end zone for seven yards out for his second rushing touchdown of the game.
Bloomfield’s senior quarterback threw for 380 yards in the contest and ran for 107 yards on 29 carries while playing a significant role in all three of his team’s touchdowns.
One of M-CHS’s best scoring opportunities came early in the third quarter when the Panthers moved the ball to the Bloomfield 1-yard-line thanks to a 30-yard reception by senior receiver Chris Matimba. A botched running play, an incomplete pass and two sacks kept M-CHS out of the end zone, however.
“We were right there, we just had a few mental mistakes,” Conklin said. “Overall, we’re proud of (our players). They played hard.”
The Panthers’ lone touchdown of the game came with 2:22 left in the fourth quarter when Baer caught a screen pass on the left side, made a nifty move to his right, stepped back to his left, and raced 45 yards down the sideline to make the score 20-6.
The Panthers were unable to convert a subsequent onside kick attempt however, and as a result, were unable to mount any significant comeback attempt. Now 0-1 on the season, M-CHS will return to practice to prepare for a road matchup against Kirtland Central on Aug. 31.
“We have to come together,” Conklin said. “We have to get after it next week for sure. We have to clean up some of the mental errors that we had out there and get ready for next week.”
M-CHS’s game against Kirtland Central is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.