Thu Aug 30th, 2018
Special to the Drum
One had to feel for Lake County’s James Garrison. Injured late in the first half of the Panthers’ season-opening Aug. 25 trip to Ignacio, the sophomore hadn’t sufficiently recovered by the time the third quarter was to start – leaving visitors in a serious predicament: With only ten serviceable players available, a forfeit suddenly became a real possibility.
“They had six other kids on the sideline waiting to come in and play,” IHS head coach Alfonso ‘Ponch’ Garcia noted, “but they didn’t have enough practices.”
Having already heard – and squashed – rumors of his own squad being drastically undermanned, Garcia certainly didn’t want to see the bunch from Leadville forced to pack up after only two quarters – if even for the sake of his own team, which had built up a 20-0 lead before a small, but appreciative home crowd.
And after consulting with his assistants, as well as LCHS counterpart Robert Everard and the officials, it was announced that the game would continue in a 10-on-10 capacity, with IHS agreeing to take off one receiver when on offense, or one defensive back.
With Lake County having shown but a fleeting interest in passing, the loss of a corner or safety really didn’t hurt the Bobcats at all. But having their own aerial attack – which had already produced two Ian Weinreich-to-Colten Jackson touchdown tosses – altered did leave the hosts somewhat confused early in the second half.
“Yeah it definitely did,” said Jackson, a junior who finished with three receptions for 66 yards.
“The plays were definitely different; we had to have the quarterback ask the coaches where the wide receivers were going to line up since we only had ten … couldn’t do the plays exactly how we wanted. We had to do a few adjustments, but we got into it.”
And helped by a 26-yard pass to Jackson, Ignacio began the second half going 55 yards in eight plays and 2:09, with senior Dustin Sanchez blasting through the guests’ middle for a 15-yard touchdown. Classmate Mike Archuleta’s point-after kick was good, and the ’Cats appeared back in sync.
After a three-and-out reply, LCHS’ punt situated IHS at the Panther 44 with 7:38 left. Four consecutive runs advanced the ball to the 32, before Weinreich sought Jackson out once again. Wide open on the play, Jackson unfortunately couldn’t clutch the ball, but Garcia and quarterbacks coach Jared Guenthart saw something which could be exploited. Following a timeout, Weinreich (5-of-10, 112 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT) connected with sophomore Lawrence Toledo on a similar route, but on the opposite side for a 32-yard TD and 4:55 remaining.
“For a first time … great job,” said Garcia. “This is the first time he’s seen a live game in high school, and the first three weeks have been quite hard for him. I’m so happy for him; he did a fantastic job.”
Archuleta’s PAT was again successful, upping Ignacio’s lead to 34-0, and it quickly grew to a decisive 41-0 only 1 minute, 50 seconds later. The Panthers again went three-and-out, and lined up to punt from their own 30. But the snap sailed past its intended target, and rolled all the way into the end zone. Players from both teams quickly gathered around it, but not one bothered to fall on the ball.
Finally, IHS freshman Jeremy Roderick leaned over, picked it up unchallenged, and with parties involved still wondering what the heck had happened, the nearest official faced the press box and signaled ‘touchdown.’ Archuleta knocked his fifth of six PAT tries over the crossbar, and with the ‘mercy rule’ running-clock scenario enacted, Lake County was doomed to drop to 0-1 overall.
But not before the non-conference clash, except the final play, concluded as an 11-on-11 affair.
Garrison managed to return for the fourth quarter, but LCHS’ first drive was halted with 8:00 left and Bobcat junior Clay Campbell covering the Panthers’ fourth lost fumble of the sunny afternoon. Unable to capitalize from the LCHS 22, Ignacio (1-0, 0-0 1A Southern Peaks) surrendered the ball on downs with 4:45 to go.
Given the chance to carry the ball on third-and-18, Garrison unfortunately was reinjured after no gain. But with only seconds left, the Panthers didn’t mind giving the ’Cats an 11-on-10 advantage and junior quarterback Luke Allen actually wrapped up the game breaking multiple tackles for a gutsy eight-yard pickup.
“Even though the other team had problems with numbers – like we do – they were big kids,” Garcia said. “That team had some pretty big boys, and I wish them the best.”
The Bobcats’ post-game rendition of the Ignacio Fight Song certainly needed some fine-tuning (pun intended), but the unsung crew’s unified “All hail!” shout at the end hinted at their motivation for 2018.
“It feels amazing,” said Jackson. “We’ve been … called quote, unquote ‘suck,’ ‘never good,’ blah, blah, blah … This year? We’ve got a squad, and I’m glad we do; the people that come out here have the heart to play.”
“If you walk into the locker room, what excitement!” Garcia stated afterwards. “I tell you what, that’s how they should feel every time they play; they’ve worked so hard for three weeks, and they played their hearts out.”
Toledo finished with two catches for 46 yards, and also rushed nine times for 15 while Sanchez finished with a team-high 19 yards on just two carries. Sophomore Joe Garcia carried 12 times for 11 yards.
Frequently hounded by the Bobcat defense and sacked multiple times, Allen (2-of-9 passing, 10 yards) battled to gain 33 yards rushing on 15 tries while junior Jace Holbrook registered 39 on 15.
IHS was to travel next to 3A Crownpoint, N.M., on Thursday, Aug. 30, but results against the Eagles (0-1 after a 54-0 blowout loss at home to 4A Ruidoso, N.M., on Aug. 24) were unavailable at press time.
Ignacio took Lake County to task on the game’s very first possession – the only time the 1A Foothills Conference reps (previously of the 1A Tri-Peaks) would reach midfield. Able to gain the 50 via a six-yard carry, Allen was stripped of the ball by Archuleta and Sanchez smothered it beneath the ensuing pileup.
Unable to advance the ball closer to paydirt than the LCHS 36, the Bobcats’ first series ended with a Campbell punt on its seventh play. Pinned back at their own 11 with 5:56 left in the first quarter, the Panthers pushed the ball out to the 33. But after Toledo broke up an Allen pass, disaster hit Lake County hard.
Sanchez and Campbell disrupted a Panther run three yards behind the line of scrimmage, the ball popped free, and began bouncing backwards nearer the guests’ sideline. At full speed, Jackson made the scoop at the 26 and cruised into the end zone with 2:26 left in the first frame.
“We’re going to work as hard as we can. We’re not going to stop, we’re going to come at you full-force, and we’ll never give up until the end,” said Jackson. “Our mindset’s that right now: Never give up until the last.”
ON THE SAME PAGE
After Archuleta’s first PAT gave IHS the vital 7-0 advantage, Lake County’s next drive began at their own 16, died at their own 28, and freshman Jovani Avelar was forced to punt on the series’ seventh snap. Set up at the 50 with 11:37 left in the second quarter, the ’Cats covered the distance in a game-high 11 plays, with Jackson hauling in a 32-yard score with 6:36 left before halftime.
He’d also grab an eight-yard score – an immediate result of Avelar’s two-yard punt from the Panther 6 – with 1:04 still before the break, as he and Weinreich displayed a promising rapport.
“He just knows that I’m going to be there, so he can pass it up to me,” said Jackson. “I’ve known Ian for a while, and he’s passed to me … playing around. So, I knew he was going to be quarterback this year, and I trust him and he trusts me. It’s like a bond that we’ve grown over the years.”