Hit by Bayfield’s Cole Wood on a first-down incompletion, then again by Daniel Westbrook for a loss of 6 yards on second, it was clear from the start that Ike Dennison would have a fairly painful Saturday.
The Wolverines (6-0, 2-0 2A Intermountain League) had little trouble in their second consecutive road game to open league play. The Saturday trip to Cortez started with a flurry of Bayfield scores, and the Wolverines led 21-0 after the opening 8½ minutes of play.
But the Panthers (1-4, 0-2 IML) played hurry-up offense and called rapid slant and out routes that sometimes gave the vaunted Bayfield defense fits and produced two Montezuma-Cortez touchdowns in the Class 2A Intermountain League game in Cortez. Dennison completed two touchdown passes – one to Cole Herrmann and another to Vinny Conklin. But the Bayfield defense largely held the Panthers in check the rest of the way.
The Wolverines won, 56-12, but the matchup exposed a soft spot in the state’s No. 2 team, which has inspired its traveling fans and on Saturday pulled in reporters from across Southwest Colorado.
“We had our ups and downs all game,” admitted Bayfield senior wide receiver and defensive back Dax Snooks. “Kind of came in thinking, like, we’re better ... don’t really care much. There was a lackadaisical atmosphere in practice all week.”
“The defense gave us a short field a bunch, and we were able to take advantage of that,” Bayfield head coach Gary Heide said. “They have some talented athletes and got us with the slant patterns, but we have great pass rushers, and teams have to account for all of our D-linemen. That’s why so many passes were errant, because of our pass rush.”
Able to balance the giveaway/takeaway ratio to an even 3:3, but forced to punt the ball away seven times, the Panthers trailed 29-0 before scoring to stop the shutout.
Set up at the Panther 24-yard line, Dennison went to the air on six consecutive snaps. And helped by a 53-yard connection with junior Cordell Baer, Montezuma-Cortez penetrated the end zone with Herrmann’s scoop of a low, 6-yard dart with 7:30 left before halftime.
Wolverine junior David Hawkins blocked the point-after kick attempt, however, leaving the Panthers down by 23 points at intermission.
Out of the break, Bayfield again marched down the field and scored on senior Hunter Killough’s 6-yard TD run to extend the lead to 36-6.
Dawson Heide came up with an interception of Dennison on the next Cortez drive, but Bayfield again fumbled the ball back to the Panthers. Dennison followed up with big 22-yard pass play to Baer that set up a 1-yard TD pass that found Conklin at the goal line marker. The 2-point try was no good, leaving the score at 36-12.
Bayfield added a touchdown on a 9-yard TD pass from Farmer to Snooks – the duo’s ninth TD connection of the season. Killough scored again on an 11-yard run, and Killough capped off the scoring with an 11-yard TD reception from Farmer.
“Our offensive line made gaping holes,” coach Heide said. “They set the edge, and we knew we could run off-tackle, and that happened.”
Chris Mooney made all six of his extra-point attempts for the Wolverines, a promising sign for a team with state title aspirations.
“We started to lose focus,” Killough stated, addressing the Panthers’ proficiency at its quick-pass progression downfield, “but it was good for us ... so we can learn to run all four quarters and play our hearts out.”
“We had quite a few penalties that didn’t help by any means, and defensively we’ve got to cover better.”
Unofficially, Dennison went 14-of-40, for 159 yards passing. He was picked off by Killough with 2:12 left in the first quarter. Baer snared nine throws for 120 yards; Conklin, four for 33; and Herrmann, one for 6 yards.
Collectively, Montezuma-Cortez was held to minus 18 yards rushing. On the ground, Dennison ran four times for a total of minus 17 yards; Jacob Schuster, five times for minus 4 yards; and Conklin, one carry for 3 yards.
Unofficially with 169 yards on 19 carries, Killough registered four touchdowns on the ground and also caught one from Farmer (13-of-20, 228 yards, 4 TD, INT) for the game’s final score, which came with 8:55 remaining.
Up next, Montezuma-Cortez will visit Delta (2-4, 1-1) on Thursday, Oct. 12, for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
Bayfield will host surprising Pagosa Springs (4-2, 2-0) Friday, Oct. 13, at 7.
Reporter Joel Priest of the Pine River Times and Regional Sports Editor John Livingston of The Durango Herald contributed to this article.