Panthers look to younger players
Navigating wildfire evacuations and COVID-19 quarantines, Middle Park took the field Saturday against Elizabeth with more than a third of its roster missing.
In the first five plays of the game in Granby, Panthers team leaders Ben Opatril and Davis Emery suffered injuries, making matters even worse for the Panthers, who were already missing more than a dozen players from a roster that has just over 30.
“We’ve been hit hard between COVID and the (East Troublesome Fire), and our numbers dropped,” coach Jason Nagel said, explaining that the Panthers are thinner than thin across the lineup.
Still, he saw great things from his younger players, including sophomore quarterback Forest Schofield, who stepped into his first varsity start, ran the Panthers offense well and completed a number of passes when called on to do so.
The longest of those passes was a TD strike to senior Jackson Cimino, who broke free after the catch for a long play. Cimino also found the end zone on the defensive side of the ball with a nice fumble recovery for a score. With the two TDs, Middle Park fell 50-13 in the contest.
Nagel also applauded junior Tanner Shannon, who ran the ball extremely well for the Panthers throughout the contest. The team is still waiting on the game film so stats weren’t available Thursday morning, but Nagel was exceptionally pleased with Tanner’s play.
“The Middle Park Football team and family has been really hit hard with those events, and the guys remaining played really hard,” the coach said. “We’re just really young. Our younger players haven’t had a lot of experience, but they really stepped up and took on the challenge of starting in a varsity game.”
At the end of the game, Middle Park senior defensive end Cameron Kirwan suffered a possible concussion, and Nagel said he won’t be available for this week’s game, which is another setback for the team.
Because Middle Park is so short-handed, the team has canceled its varsity matchup this weekend against Woodland Park and is instead taking on Battle Mountain in a JV game.
At this point, Middle Park’s schedule is week to week, though the team is eying an upcoming varsity matchup against Arvada.
Nagel also wanted to commend Elizabeth for being “a class act” and working with Middle Park through these tough times and supporting the Panthers.
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A project that the Grand Fire Protection District has planned for since 2004 could begin soon.