Strong Panther defense can't hold Rangers
Injuries, clearances hurt Saratoga gridder’s depth in shutout loss to 2A Kemmerer
The Saratoga Panthers hit the gridiron at Kemmerer over the weekend, but a strong defensive effort was not enough to allow the cats to claw their way to victory over the 2A Kemmerer Rangers.
The Panthers were shutdown by a score of 34-0 against Kemmerer, who ended a 36-game losing streak Friday. Prior to its win against Saratoga, the team had not won a game since Sept. 28, 2012.
In the game—the first of the season which counts for season standings—the Panthers fielded a team beset by injuries and issues with the team’s roster.
According to the team’s head coach, Kegan Willford, the team was down by a couple players because of injury, and another player was absent because he is not yet cleared to play by the Wyoming High School Activities Association (WHSAA).
“It was a learning experience for us this first time out,” Willford said. “Our depth was one of our key things. We only suited up 17 kids that could play on Friday. We’re hoping to have closer to 20 this coming Friday.”
Player fatigue was also a key issue the Panthers had to contend with, Willford said. The temperature was in the 80s, he said, and dehydration caused some athletes to begin cramping up.
That, combined with the fact the defensive line spent so much time on the field wore the defense thin as the game ground on.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the score was 15-0, Willford said, enough for a potential comeback, but player fatigue began to take over.
Before fatigue really began to affect gameplay, the defense had been holding up well as it had in the previous week’s scrimmage against Laramie JV.
“We picked up where we left off last week with the defense,” Willford said. “Our tackling was well done, and everyone did their assignments well on defense, but as the game wore on we spent a lot of time on the field defensively.”
In the coming week, the team will continue to develop a strong defense, but the focus would have to shift to building a stronger offensive line, Willford said. The team will also focus on further bolstering special teams which have also had a difficult time so far this season.
Willford also hopes to be able to field a full complement of players, saying the team’s goal for its next game against Wright on Friday is to have 20 players suited and ready to play. Willford said he is optimistic the athlete awaiting clearance from the WHSAA to play will be granted that permission this week.
The next game for the Saratoga Panthers football team will be 5 p.m. Friday at Saratoga High School against the Panthers of Wright High School.