Ten Montezuma-Cortez High School Panthers were honored on senior night.
Despite forcing four turnovers, the last game at Panther Stadium was bittersweet for the seniors.
Moffat County made the six-hour drive from northwest Colorado to Cortez and scored 20 points before M-CHS got on the board. The Panthers hung with Moffat County 22-19 in the second half. But the visiting Bulldogs were too much for the Panthers last Friday night. M-CHS lost, 42-19.
The defense did a really good job. It was their best game, M-CHS coach Casey Coulter said. I know it doesnt show on paper, but defensively, it was our best game. It was a confidence booster for our defense.
Moffat County (4-4, 2-4 3A Western Slope League) drove 65 yards on its first series for a 7-0 lead.
The Bulldogs remained up seven going into the second quarter. But Moffat County went on a timely scoring drive that was capped on a 2-yard run by tailback Michael Samuelson. Ricardo Zaragosas point after attempt doubled the score to 14-0.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Panthers (1-7, 1-6 3A WSL) fumbled and the Bulldogs pounced on the ball at the 21-yard line. Working with an extremely short field, it took two plays for Moffat County quarterback Bretten Ivers to find paydirt. He scored on a 15-yard run up the middle. The extra point missed, but the Bulldogs led big, 20-0.
That was the margin at halftime thanks to the Panthers defense forcing two turnovers. Alex Lopez stripped Ivers and Ty Harris recovered at the Bulldogs 40.
However, M-CHS couldnt capitalize on the fumble and gave the ball back on downs.
This time, Ivers would throw an interception that landed in the hands of Dakota Buddha Goosen. The senior cornerback returned the pick to the 26-yard line and a 15-yard Bulldogs personal foul moved the ball to the 41.
But again, the Panthers couldnt capitalize.
Moffat Countys defense sacked M-CHS quarterback Jonathan Walck twice to push the Panthers out of scoring range.
M-CHS punted and the Bulldogs satisfactorily ran out the first half clock.
It took awhile for our offense to get going, Coulter said.
In the third, it appeared Moffat County would score on its opening drive. Ivers scampered 61 yards down the left side to the M-CHS 7 to set up first-and-goal.
On second-and-goal from the 6, the Panthers defense came through again.
Ivers heaved a fade route to the left side of the end zone and Ryan Gurney wrestled the ball away from the wide receiver. The Panthers freshman went the other way with the ball to the 33-yard line.
With the crowd back in the game, the M-CHS offense continued to stall with a three-and-out.
But the Panthers D kept M-CHS in it. With Matthew Hamilton now under center for the Bulldogs, he went to the air deep in his own territory.
The Panthers made Hamilton pay.
Goosen grabbed his second interception at the Bulldogs 19.
With Tallon Ralstin now in at QB after Walck left the game with an injury earlier in the third, the offense finally scored.
On second-and-10, Ralstin threw to the end zone and the ball was tipped by a Bulldogs defender. With a little luck, the back fell into Gurneys hands for a TD.
Lopezs PAT failed, but the Panthers were finally on the board down 20-6.
M-CHS forced another three-and-out on defense. But Moffat County pinned the Panthers deep near their own goal line.
The Bulldogs defense would score when they sacked Ralstin in the end zone for a safety early in the fourth quarter.
Now up 22-6, Moffat County took more than three minutes off the clock on its next drive. The end result was a 2-yard TD toss from Ivers to Garrett Stewart. The PAT was no good, but M-CHS trailed 28-6.
The Panthers responded behind seniors Ralstin, Goosen and Trenton Gustafson.
From the 37, Ralstin threw a pretty 26-yard strike to Goosen for a first down at the Bulldogs 37.
Two plays later, Moffat County was flagged for a 15-yard pass interference penalty. From the 22, M-CHS earned nine tough yards to the 13. On second-and-1, nothing. On third-and-1, nothing. But on fourth-and-1, Ralstin handed off to Gustafson and the bruising running back ran over the Bulldogs. Gustafson left the defenders in the dust for a 13-yard TD run. The 2-point pass was incomplete, but the Panthers kept hanging in down 28-12.
But ultimately, the hole was too big to climb out of and the Bulldogs buried M-CHS in the final minutes.
Fifteen-yard and 5-yard TD runs by Ivers and Samuelson made it 42-12 Moffat County.
The Panthers saved their best offense for last on their final drive when Ralstin found Gurney wide open for a long pass. The young M-CHS receiver went 67 yards to the house and capped off his best game, making the score 42-18.
Lopezs extra point was good resulting in the final margin.
We just had to keep fighting. Nobody gave up. Everybody just kept giving a 100 percent, Goosen said. We should have started out better than we did.
Ralstin passed 4-of-11 for 122 yards and two TDs with nine tackles on defense. Goosen grabbed two catches for 47 yards and snared two interceptions. Gurney caught two passes for 86 yards with two TDs and an interception. Gustafson recorded a game high 23 tackles and a TD run.
We just work harder and harder everyday, and make sure (we know) what we need to do in practice, Goosen said. ...So they are good in the game and knowing what to do. Its something we need to work on as a team.
The Panthers will conclude league play on the road Friday at Glenwood Springs (3-5, 3-3 3A WSL) at 7 p.m.