Big Win Keeps Panthers on Playoff Push
Grand County, CO Colorado
The Middle Park football team blitzed the Academy Wildcats 30-0 at District 12 North Stadium in Denver last Saturday with a dominating ground attack and a brutal defensive shut-out that held Academy to under 100 yards of total offense.
The Academy had been averaging over 300 yards of offense and over 26 points per game coming into the contest. “Our offensive and defensive line dominated and won another game for us,” said head coach Troy Schmidt. The Panther line consisted of Cody Garrett, Nick Brynoff, Dillon Berger, Jace Linke and Kade Silverenale. Steven Kentfield and Sage Wall started at the ends and had, “dominating blocks all day long,” according to Schmidt, “Both lines were outstanding–they really took it to Academy’s bigger guys who averaged over 260 pounds.”
This is all the while Middle Park has been decimated by injuries and sickness. No fewer than 5 starters on both sides of the ball were unavailable for Saturday’s game. Standout lineman Kane Hutchinson, running back/safety Ben Eaton, linebacker/tight end Adam Visconti, the state’s second leading interceptor Hugh Campbell, and linebacker/tight end, Steve Simmons were all watching from the sidelines or listening to the broadcast from home on the radio. Additionally Connor Jennings and John Stensvad had gutsy performances as they gimped around on bad lower leg injuries the whole game. “This is the biggest win I have been a part of at Middle Park. It was such a team win with so much riding on the line, so many guys had to play out of position, and so many young guys had to step-up to make it happen,” said Schmidt.
The defensive domination started early on Academy’s second possession when John Stensvad made a very athletic interception and returned it for a touchdown. Stensvad also added the extra-point to make it 7-0 early and that would be all the points Middle Park would need on the day.
On the ensuing offensive series, Academy was forced to punt and the Panthers took over in their own territory. On the first play, Stensvad found Sage Wall for a nice 17-yard completion and then the bruising rushing attack began. The next three plays would see Henry Southway pound the ball over right tackle for over 45 yards behind Linke, Kentfield, and Moses Aguilar. That series ended with a 13-yard touchdown run by Southway and the extra-point by Stensvad.
On Academy’s next possession, the Panthers forced a “three and out.” which was highlighted by a big Kentfield hit on an Academy receiver on third down to dislodge the ball for an incompletion.
It would take only six, punishing running plays to cover over 65 yards, capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by Connor Jennings and a Stensvad extra-point to put the Panthers up 21-0 early in the second quarter.
Middle Park’s defense would force yet another punt the next time Academy got the ball and the Panthers took over on their own 20 yard line. This time the offensive line would take over on a 11-play, 80 yard drive that used all three running backs including Moses Aguilar with some very “tough, hard-nose running,” according to Schmidt. That drive chewed up most of the time in the second quarter and culminated in another 11-yard touchdown run by Southway, with Jennings providing devastating blocks the whole series. The snap on the extra point was mishandled and the Panthers would lead 27-0.
With little time remaining before half-time, Academy tried throwing the ball and Southway made them pay with an interception. Middle Park couldn’t capitalize on the turnover and they had to settle with a 27-point lead at halftime.
The second half began with sloppy play by both teams as the wind and rain continued to make wet balls hard to handle. However, it was the Panther defense that took over and won the game by coming up with two big stops after Middle Park turned the ball over deep in their own territory on two consecutive possessions to keep the Wildcats off the scoreboard. The Panthers would put together one more 10-play drive in the fourth quarter that ended with a 23-yard field goal by Stensvad to end the game with the score 30-0.
On offense, Henry Southway led the Panthers with 28 carries for 204 rushing yards that dominated the game. Moses Aguilar would add 38 yards and Jennings had 17 yards. Defensively, the Panthers had several stand-out players led by the defensive line which forced double teams all day and allowed linebackers to “fly around and make great plays” according to Schmidt. Four of those linebackers would have at least 10 tackles with Brynoff leading the way with 13, Kentfield adding 12, and Jennings and Wall contributing 10 each. Dillon Berger added 6 tackles while Stensvad (5 tackles) and Garrett (6 tackles) also teamed up for a big quarterback sack that ended a key Academy drive.
The victory keeps Middle Park’s chances for an automatic berth in the 16-team playoffs alive. “It’s been a lot of fun to have something to play for this late in the season the last three years,” said Schmidt, “it’s a great for all the hard work the kids have put in to be in their position right now!” However, the Panthers must win their next two games to ensure that playoff spot.
The Panthers host Kipp Collegiate on Thursday at 7 p.m. This will also celebrate Public Servant Night at Panther Stadium with all military, EMS, law enforcement, fire fighters or any other public servant in uniform free admission to the game.
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