The Saratoga Sun -

Panthers fall to Grizzlies


In Saratoga High School’s Oct. 14 football game against Rocky Mountain High School, in Cowley, Wyo., all of the action came in the first half. Little of it was in the Panther’s favor.

Despite a revitalized roster featuring two previously injured athletes, Saratoga fell 55-7 to the Grizzlies, dropping to 1-3 in conference play with one regular season game left.

“We started out OK, but I’m not sure exactly what happened,” coach Kegan Willford said afterwards. Indeed, in the first quarter the Grizzlies struck first, with a 16-yard rushing touchdown followed by a point after to make it 7-0.

Saratoga responded in kind with a dominant drive of their own on the next possession. Quarterback Sam Schneider concluded the drive by hitting Wyatt Cox in the end-zone with a 17-yard touchdown pass. Instead of going for two as Saratoga has done throughout much of the season, Justin Bonner tacked on a point after to even the score at 7-7.

The Grizzlies offense was far from done in the half, however. In the first quarter, they added a rushing touchdown for 9-yards, and a 22-yard passing touchdown, both with kicked extra points to leave the score 21-7.

The Grizzlies second quarter was even more impressive, with the Cowley team adding four more rushing touchdowns and one in the air. The Grizzlies entered their locker room up 55-7 at half, and that’s how the game would end.

“(The Grizzlies) only had 111 yards passing,” Willford noted, calling the rush-heavy offense a surprise. Willford and the Panthers had been expecting a pass-oriented attack.

“We were getting a lot of penetration on the (defensive) line, but we weren’t making our tackles,” Willford said. Time and again, he said his defenders would make it through blockers on their way to the prize, only to have the ball-carrier slip their grasp.

Willford said having recently-injured seniors Alex Ziegler and Max Schneider cleared to play made a big difference in size and senior leadership, but it wasn’t enough.

After struggling to make the run work, “We tried to pass a bit and they started blitzing,” Willford said.

In the week leading up to the game, Willford said club activities and a junior varsity game meant that the team wasn’t practicing with all players present on many days.

“We’re going to try to up the intensity this week,” he promised. Willford said the team will be engaging in hitting drills and game-type simulations, though not full-scrimmages.

Saratoga’s next opponent is Wind River, and Willford described the stakes of that game in stark terms.

“If we win we’ll be in the playoffs and if we don’t, we won’t,” he said. Wind River also has only one conference victory, and the game could offer a ticket to the post-season for the Panthers.

Willford called the Wind River team young and inexperienced and concluded, “There’s lots to play for, I think, and our advantage is we get to play at home on Friday.”

He urged fans to come support the Panthers 6 p.m. Oct. 21 at the Saratoga High School football field.


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