Montezuma-Cortez High School opened its football season with a convincing 33-0 win on Aug. 22, dominating Aspen High School from the start.
The victory was M-CHS’s first since moving to Colorado’s 2A classification. Aspen, a perrenial 2A power, qualified for the Class 2A playoffs in each of the past seven seasons.
Keying the victory was a relentless Panthers running attack led by Jonathan Walck, Randy Haley and Ryan Gurney, who repeatedly slammed into Aspen’s defense for substantial gains.
Clearly worn down by the Panthers ground attack, Aspen’s defense caved with 7:21 left in the second quarter, giving up a seven-yard pass from Walck to wide receiver Austin Bayless. The extra point by Gurney put the Panthers ahead 7-0.
“The line gave (Walck) enough time to throw it, it was a good ball, and I caught it,” said Bayless. “It was a good team effort.”
The Panthers pulled ahead 14-0 with 5:25 left in the second quarter after Walck kept the ball on a quarterback option and rumbled eight yards for the score.
“Everybody seemed kind of tense in the first quarter, but after that, we just started playing our game,” said Walck.
The Panthers continued to pour it on in the second half, pulling ahead 20-0 on an eight-yard touchdown run by Haley with 5:48 left in the third quarter.
M-CHS extended its lead to 27-0 on a 35-yard touchdown run by Walck, before capping off its scoring with a four-yard touchdown run by Haley.
Throughout the contest, the Panthers defense was steller in limiting Aspen to 187 yards of total offense. Gurney and Bayless each had one interception for M-CHS.
As the Panthers celebrated after the game, senior lineman Elisha Lansing took a moment to discuss the win.
“The boys came out a little rusty, but as soon as we got things going, we started running plays and scoring touchdowns,” he said.
Panthers head coach Casey Coulter, who had watched his teams lose season openers in each of the last three years, couldn’t help but smile.
“As a coach, I couldn’t gauge this game,” he said. “I was worried about our kids responding, and obviously, I don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
The Panthers will practice the next two weeks before traveling to face Miyamura on Sept. 5.
“This whole week, we’ll work on us,” said Coulter. “We’re going to clean up stuff that we messed up on. We’ll be ready to go (against Miyamura).”