Panthers, Mustangs release fall football schedules
If you ask Middle Park football coach Jason Nagel, there’s no way the Panthers won’t be prepared for their season opener at home Oct. 10 vs. Pagosa Springs.
“We will be ready,” he said matter-of-factly after running down the newly released hybrid schedule for the fall football season.
Until last week, the Panthers and their coaches thought the team wouldn’t get to play this fall. The Colorado High School Activities Association had pushed football back into the spring because of COVID-19, but a recent variance opened the door for teams to opt into a new fall season.
To be fair, CHSSA said it wouldn’t allow schools to play in both the fall and spring football seasons and told the schools they’d have to pick one. Since then, both Middle Park and West Grand have declared for the fall, enough teams have joined them to make it work, and their seasons are starting to come together.
“Yes we do have a season,” Nagel said, delighted Middle Park won’t have to play games above 8,000 feet elevation in March. “I’m calling it late fall, but it’s a fall season.”
On Facebook, West Grand announced a lineup of six games as well. Previously, West Grand Athletic Director Kori Kassib said the Mustangs would prefer to slate football in the fall, but she wasn’t sure how many teams might join them.
Over the phone Wednesday, Nagel emphasized the listed kickoff times are fluid, and he doesn’t yet know if fans will be allowed at games. Also, the Panthers won’t play their normal league matchups, and CHSAA drew up the team’s schedules, so the school didn’t get any input.
While Middle Park has typically played a nine-game season in year’s past, this one has been reduced to six with the option for a seventh game for teams that don’t make the playoffs.
With all that, Middle Park starts practice Thursday. And there are going to be some changes on the practice field too. As a result of CHSAA, practices are being limited to 90 minutes, and they’re coming with other restrictions in place, such as players having to wear masks when they’re not participating in drills or other activities.
If fans are allowed at the games, Nagel hopes for a strong showing of support for the high schoolers this year. The coach said the boys and girl on the team would love to have the community behind them, and he will post updates on social media and through the newspaper as soon as he gets word about what’s allowed with spectators.
Recalling how the school opted into the fall season, Nagel said he didn’t want to make the decision unilaterally and reached out to his team first. In a group text, the coach asked his players for a thumbs up or a thumbs down on the fall season, and 95% of the team responded in the positive.
Nagal said there was a handful that decided not to join the team this fall, and he respects their decision and won’t question their reasons. For the 34 players currently on the roster, though, their coach thinks the fall season is exactly what they needed.
And despite the unusual nature of it all, Nagel promised the Panthers “are going to hit the ground running.”
Middle Park Football Schedule
• 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10 home vs. Pagosa Springs
• 3 p.m., Friday, Oct. 16 at Delta
• 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23 at Englewood
• 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 30 home vs. Elizabeth
• 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6 at Woodland Park
• 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14 home vs Moffat County
West Grand Football Schedule
• 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10 home vs. Norwood
• 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17 at Hayden
• 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23 home vs. Rangely
• 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31 at Gilpin
• 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6 home vs. Soroco
• Date and time TBD at Vail Christian
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Winter Park Resort is reporting over a foot of fresh snow from Monday’s spring storm.