When the Montezuma-Cortez High School football team (1-4 overall, 0-1 IML) takes the field today for its homecoming game against Alamosa High School (3-2 overall, 0-1 in IML), it will be a heavy underdog against a foe that generally ranks near the top of the Intermountain League.
An unexpectedly competitive performance from the Panthers might not be out of the question, however, given the team has made significant strides in recent weeks thanks to an improved running game and consistently strong defensive play.
Home field advantage could also play a factor, as M-CHS figures to have a large crowd on hand to celebrate homecoming. Here are a few factors that figure to significantly influence the outcome of one of the Panthers’ most important games of the season.
Can M-CHS offense gain ground?Although offensive ineptitude has played a role in all of M-CHS’s losses this season, the team’s past two games, which included a 28-26 victory over Zuni High School on Sept. 27 and a 54-13 loss to Pagosa Springs, have offered a glimmer of hope.
Among the Panthers’ most effective offensive options this season has been senior running back Jacob Schuster, whose shifty style and ability to power through contact have allowed him to amass a team-high 209 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns this season.
Also providing a spark for the Panthers on offense has been junior quarterback Ty Blackmer, who has thrown for 612 yards and one touchdown. In the event that M-CHS’s offensive line is able to give Blackmer time in the pocket, junior receiver Korie Likes could enjoy a big game and add to the 195 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns he has this season. If the Panthers’ offense is able to move the ball and limit its turnovers, fans could be treated to a contest that ends up being much closer that most outside observers expect.
Can M-CHS match Alamosa’s physicality?Over the course of the last several years, Alamosa has consistently featured some of the most powerful offensive and defensive lines in the Intermountain League and has won the majority of its games by physically overpowering its opponents.
Therefore, if M-CHS is to be successful, the Panthers will need to match Alamosa’s intensity in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
While this year’s Mean Moose roster lacks some of the high-end skill players it has had in recent years, senior quarterback Brendon Madril brings talent and experience to the table, as evidenced by his 774 passing yards, 172 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns this season.
Alamosa running back Luke Smith can also be a load, as the senior has rushed for a team-high 376 yards and two touchdowns this season. Senior Ian Jackson leads Alamosa’s receiving corps with 288 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns.
Although the Panthers will undoubtedly bring a high level of intensity to tonight’s contest, and will likely play better than many fans expect, Alamosa’s overall talent could be too much to overcome.