Thu Sep 26th, 2019
Special to the Drum
Strong start collapses before halftime in 22-13 loss
It was almost as though the Bobcats were saving their best for last.
But after an 11-play drive, set up by a Tyler Barnes fumble recovery at Ignacio’s own 34-yard line with 11:11 remaining, died on downs at the enemy’s 28, hosting John Mall’s ensuing 11-play grinder guaranteed IHS’ best Friday night, Sept. 20, would end up being their first.
Able to sap the penultimate 6:12 off the clock with eleven consecutive runs divvied up between senior star Wesley Van Matre, sophomore Dale Van Matre, sophomore Francisco Figueroa and junior quarterback Travis Vialpando, the Panthers prevailed 22-13 in what will likely be Ignacio’s final trip to Walsenburg for quite some time with JMHS dropping into CHSAA’s 8-man gridiron ranks next fall.
“We stayed steady,” said Bobcat junior Lawrence Toledo. “They didn’t score after halftime.”
Unfortunately, neither did IHS—trying to avenge the previous Saturday’s odd 8-7 loss in Leadville to Lake County.
“We just couldn’t capitalize when we had our chances,” head coach Ponch Garcia had said after falling to LCHS, also nicknamed the Panthers (and also set to descend into 8-man in 2020). “We were trying to score, but we’d go backwards and had too many penalties. We shot ourselves in the foot because of that, but…. I think we’re going to learn from this and get better.”
That was evident from the outset Friday night, Sept. 20, with senior Colten Jackson intercepting Vialpando on the second play from scrimmage. Set up at the John Mall 4, two gives from senior quarterback Ian Weinreich to junior Joe Garcia resulted in the non-conference game’s initial six points. Kicker Alvaro Ros Ortiz booted the extra point through the uprights, and the ’Cats had the start they wanted.
JMHS threatened to respond, driving from their own 37 to the Ignacio 41 in five plays plus an IHS encroachment infraction. But on the sixth snap, Wesley Van Matre fumbled at the end of a 29-yard burst and Garcia recovered at the 12.
“The pick Colten had really motivated us,” Toledo said. “And the strip [Garcia’s recovery] as well…being able to capitalize made us feel, like, on top of the world.”
But with Weinreich asked to step in as a receiver in sidelined Dylan Labarthe’s stead, IHS also utilized Gabe Tucson under center against John Mall, and after a give to Garcia gained three yards out to the 15, Tucson’s second-down toss wasn’t seen by any white jersey—allowing JMHS sophomore lineman Tyler Martin to smother the ball back at the 11.
But the ’Cats held defensively, forcing a turnover-on-downs at their own 15 with 4:41 left in the first quarter. And helped by a 10-yard sack of Vialpando by Weinreich and junior Curtis White, their 7-0 lead endured into the second stanza.
IHS’ ensuing drive, started at midfield with 0:07 remaining in the first after a Figueroa punt, ended up being a three-and-out and Shawn Campbell was summoned to punt. Fortunately for the ’Cats, Wesley Van Matre’s return of 60-plus yards was called back by penalty.
Unfortunately for the ’Cats, the Panthers were bent on a Homecoming Week win, and at last got on the scoreboard with a 6-play, 77-yard push capped by a 7-yard Wesley Van Matre carry with 8:41 left before halftime. Jackson broke up Vialpando’s attempted two-point conversion throw, but was called for a penalty—allowing Van Matre to tote in a second-chance try.
Down 8-7, IHS coughed up the ball on their next offensive play with JMHS’ Wyatt Vigil ending up on the bottom of the pile at the Ignacio 36 with 8:31 to go. Overcoming a holding penalty, the Panthers again found the end zone with Dale Van Matre (unofficially 8-67 rushing) blasting in from 25 yards out. Wesley Van Matre (unoff. 32-203) again lugged in the bonus two-pointer, putting John Mall up 16-7 with 4:58 left.
Ignacio rallied, however, going 64 yards in 3:18, with Weinreich flipping a five-yard touchdown to Toledo. Ros Ortiz’s PAT kick, however, fell short and left JMHS holding onto a 16-13 advantage. Pinned back at their own 13 with 1:29 still remaining after the kickoff, the Panthers covered the 87 yards in just five plays and 71 seconds, with Vialpando managing to connect with Wesley Van Matre for a 55-yard TD.
Van Matre’s conversion run, however, was stopped short and JMHS would go into the locker room leading by nine.
The Bobcats’ first two third-quarter series ended in Ros Ortiz punts (an injured Campbell was unable to continue), and their third drive, starting at their 25-yard line after a John Mall turnover-on-downs, ended on the first play of the fourth quarter when Wesley Van Matre intercepted Weinreich and set the Panthers up at the IHS 34 with 11:53 left to play.
Figueroa gained a yard on first down before Barnes’ aforementioned takeaway on second, but Ignacio’s last-gasp surge would stall out at the JMHS 28. Having drilled Weinreich in the back and disrupted his first-down pass during the Bobcats’ previous possession, Panther senior Kaleb Rehm came up with the game-saving defensive play when he sacked Weinreich for a four-yard loss on second down back to the JMHS 42.
Two seven-yard Weinreich-to-Jackson tosses weren’t enough to advance the chains, and John Mall left little to the imagination in consuming the remaining time—leaving the ’Cats 1-3 overall entering their ‘bye’ week.
Toledo unofficially gained 35 yards in defeat on eight carries, while Garcia gained 28 on 11. Jackson totaled three catches for 36 yards and Campbell one for 35 as Weinreich unofficially finished 5-of-10 passing for 76 yards.
After the break from competition, Ignacio will host Colorado Springs Christian—which stood 2-1 prior to hosting Ellicott on Saturday night, Sept. 28—at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, then begin 1A Southern Peaks Conference work at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11, at Center. Coincidentally, the Vikings (2-1) were to next host JMHS (1-2) on Friday, Sept. 27.