Before his team’s first game of the season, Montezuma-Cortez High School football coach Scott Conklin predicted that senior quarterback Ike Dennison would “be one of the top gunslingers” in Colorado’s 2A Class.
And while it still might be a bit premature to anoint Dennison as such given that his team has only played three games, the senior’s performance during M-CHS’ 49-0 home victory over Zuni went a long way toward giving credence to his coach’s words.
Looking like a seasoned high school veteran, Dennison picked apart Zuni’s defense en route to 153 yards passing and five passing touchdowns. Three of the Panthers’ signal caller’s TD strikes went to senior receiver Cordell Baer, who made four catches for 157 yards overall.
Junior Teagan Whiteskunk got his first touchdown reception of his high school career, and senior Vinny Conklin and junior Chris Matimba also had touchdown receptions. M-CHS racked up 234 passing yards.
“I was just seeing an open field and making my reads as usual,” Dennison said. (Zuni) had one-on-ones, and I read the defense and was able to make some big plays.”
“We’ve been playing together since third grade, and we’re all playing with heart and not giving up,” said Baer. “This is definitely our year.”
The Panthers’ scoring spree opened early in the first quarter when Dennison connected with Baer on a two-yard touchdown pass to make the score 6-0.
M-CHS scored its second touchdown when the two seniors connected two minutes later on a 75-yard touchdown pass that came on a screen play to the left. Key blocks by several linemen and two receivers made the long touchdown play possible.
“We worked on pass blocking a lot this week, and I think we just executed,” Baer said. “(Whiteskunk) and Conklin both had big blocks, and I was able to get outside.”
While Baer’s big game catching the ball stole the show on the stat sheet, Conklin’s contributions were not overlooked by fans and teammates as the senior ran for 51 yards and one touchdown and accumulated 44 receiving yards.
M-CHS’ defense was also stout throughout the night and allowed Zuni’s no breathing room, thanks in large part to Matthew Broughton, who had 15 total tackles and one interception. Baer and Swayde Noyes each had sacks for the Panthers, and Vallentino Rodriguez came down with one interception. Senior linebacker Zeke Vargas had 12 tackles for M-CHS.
“We’re just playing as a team and trusting each other,” Broughton said. “We’re doing our job and not trying to do anyone else’s. It’s hard to move the ball on us. We do everything well on defense.”
M-CHS led 42-0 at halftime before tacking on a final touchdown when sophomore quarterback Ty Blackmer connected with Baer midway through the fourth quarter to cap off the scoring and put his team ahead 49-0.
With the win, the Panthers improved to 2-1 on the season. Zuni dropped to 1-2.
Next up for M-CHS will be a tough road matchup against Delta on Sept. 14 at 7 p.m.
“We can’t take (Delta) lightly,” Dennison said. “We want to hit them with blunt force. ... We have to keep doing what we’re doing and take things one game at a time.”