Trailing Kirtland Central by 10 points late in the fourth quarter on Aug. 31, the Montezuma-Cortez High School football team looked as if it was headed to another heart-wrenching defeat.
The Panthers senior-laden roster never gave up, however, as the team came from behind to pin down a 14-10 victory.
According to M-CHS head coach Scott Conklin, the key to the Panthers’ win was solid defense across all four quarters. Junior Teagan Whiteskunk came up big with two interceptions, Kaleb Gropp had one interception, and Vinny Conklin recovered a fumble that was forced by Matthew Broughton.
“The game was definitely a defensive game for the longest time,” Scott Conklin said. “Our offense moved the ball, but we still had some penalties and some mental mistakes that killed us. Our defense played great again, and at the end of the game, we were able to finish on a high note.”
The seeds of victory were planted with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter when Ike Dennison rushed for a touchdown to cut Kirtland Central’s lead to 10-7.
The senior quarterback scored again with 1:49 left in the game to put his team ahead 14-10, and over the game’s final 90 seconds, the Panthers defense held. Dennison finished with 60 rushing yards in the contest and passed for 178 yards.
Cordell Baer enjoyed a big day catching the football as the senior amassed 150 receiving yards on eight catches. Senior Jacob Schuster rushed for 58 yards, and Vinny Conklin had five receptions for 21 yards.
“This is the first time that our team has come from behind to win in three years,” Scott Conklin said. “We definitely improved this week. We still have a lot of things to work on, but we’re excited.”
Now with a 1-1 record, M-CHS will return to the practice field to prepare for a home contest against Zuni High School, on Sept. 7 at 7 p.m.
Although the contest is officially the Panthers’ second home game of the season, the game will be the first for the team at Panthers Stadium after wind damage forced the M-CHS to play its season opener in Dolores.
“We’re definitely excited to play at Panther Stadium,” Scott Conklin said. “Zuni has a big quarterback, and they are big up front. They run a pro-style offense, and they run the ball hard. I believe that it will be another defensive struggle, and I’m hopeful that we can get our receivers loose on their (defensive backs) and pick up another win.”