Fri Oct 28th, 2016
Special to the Drum
IHS falls 24-18 to Gonzales-led Panthers
Able to break four would-be tackles en route to a clutch 67-yard touchdown reception from senior quarterback Zach Weinreich with only 1:32 remaining, Ignacio senior Ethan Appenzeller would not be denied his chance to prolong the Bobcats’ comeback bid Friday night, Oct. 21, in Walsenburg.
But with zero timeouts remaining, IHS’ next move after senior Lorenzo Pena’s point-after kick was obvious and John Mall High School – already beyond energized by senior Evan Gonzales’ performance – recovered the ensuing onside attempt to secure a tense 24-18 win in 1A Southern Peaks Conference action.
IHS dropped to 3-5 overall, 1-3 in the SPC, as Gonzales’ career-high 224 rushing yards was his third 200-plus effort – all coming, ironically, against the Cats – and pulled him to within 115 of matching his 2015 output. With four TD carries, producing all JMHS’ points against Ignacio, Gonzales will also go into the Panthers’ Oct. 28 season-finale versus La Jara Centauri needing three more to match last year’s 11.
But in Huerfano County, it was IHS striking first in their bid to crash John Mall’s Homecoming bash. After the Bobcats’ first series stalled, senior Timmy Plehinger came up with an interception three plays later, and junior Marcus Chapman hauled in a ten-yard score from Weinreich with 10:06 left in the opening quarter.
Aided by a 15-yard personal foul on a horse-collar tackle halting a 32-yard Gonzales run, the Panthers (3-5, 2-2 SPC) evened the score at 6-6 – completing a drive set up by junior Malachi Neil’s first of two interceptions – with Gonzales bulling in from seven yards out with 1:50 left.
Wasting no time to up the ante, Gonzales burned through for a 52-yard TD and 12-6 lead with 10:02 left in the second quarter, after JMHS’ defense came up with another vital stop. Trailing but still able to move the ball effectively, Ignacio reached the Panther 12 on their subsequent series. And though a lost fumble – smothered by senior Jeremiah Vigil – gave possession back to the Panthers at the 1, Gonzales was quickly dropped for a safety with 7:48 still before halftime.
Taking a measure of revenge, Gonzales would score from 16 yards out with just 65 seconds remaining, but the Cats thwarted the two-point conversion try to stay within ten, 18-8, at the break.
Despite a greatly reduced roster – the size being similar to that in IHS’ gutsy 2014 road win over JMHS – Ignacio fought on, and cut the Panthers’ advantage down to 18-11, via senior Lorenzo Pena’s 19-yard field goal on a fourth-and-two with 6:02 left in the third quarter, setting the stage for a furious fourth.
However, the Bobcats’ furies didn’t work totally in their favor; a pass-interference infraction and three more personal fouls – all on one drive – could, for all practical purposes, have brought the night to a fast end, but fortunately John Mall didn’t profit.
Gonzales’ ten-yard tote with 11:52 left in the game had rebuilt the hosts’ lead to 13 points, and with the clock becoming just as problematic as either the Panthers or the penalty flags, Ignacio faced an uphill climb all the way to the end, with Appenzeller’s grab-and-go putting the summit within reach.
But ultimately still out of range.
All told, Gonzales’ work (24 carries, 9.3 yards per) led a ground game, which gained a reported 270 yards. Sophomore Nikko Vallejos added 24 yards on 3-of-13 passing, but was intercepted again after Plehinger’s pick.
Defensively, John Mall notched four QB sacks (senior Elijah Sandoval led with two) and snared three interceptions (freshman Wesley Van Matre had the third). Neil batted away four additional IHS throws, while Gonzales registered a team-high six tackles.
With only a Saturday, Oct. 29, visit from Center left on their 2016 schedule, the Bobcats’ statistics from the trip to Walsenburg had not been reported as of press time. CHS will come into the 1 p.m. contest standing 5-3 overall and 3-1 in conference after losing 28-14 at home on October 21to Monte Vista (4-4, 3-1).