GRANBY – Panther football team aims to keep playoff hopes alive in home game tonight
Grand County, CO Colorado
While 2A Football only takes 16 teams to its playoffs, the Middle Park High School football team expanded its chances by edging the Academy Wildcats 13-0 in Denver on Saturday, Oct. 30, with a dominating defensive performance.
The win keeps the Panther’s wild-card hopes alive. However, the win also opens up an automatic berth possibility if the Academy beats Machebeuf by enough points on Saturday, Nov. 6. In that scenario, the Panthers would finish second in the conference behind Faith Christian and get an automatic playoff bid.
“None of this means anything if we don’t take care of business and win this Thursday night at home against a very big and fast team from Mead,” said coach Troy Schmidt. “We need the whole community out to support us this Thursday night at 7 p.m. to beat the Mavericks.”
If the Panthers do make the playoffs, it would mark their first appearance since 1994 in which the current players for Middle Park were all 2 years old and younger, or not even born.
The Panthers put up a huge defensive effort last Saturday to put them in their current position. They shut out another tough Spread Offense that had been averaging over 30 points a game.
“Our defense was awesome!” said Schmidt. “We had kids flying all over the place! That includes a first-year player, and a kid who played soccer last year, Simeon Anderson. He played out of his mind with 8 tackles and 2 Passes defended!”
The defense was statistically led by junior Brian Macchione who had 9 tackles, 1 quarterback sack, and a forced fumble.
“Brian is proving himself as one of the best players in our league and had an all-state performance in the defensive line,” added Schmidt. “Our 3-5 defense isn’t designed for him to make tackles, but he continually beats double teams and cannot be blocked.”
The sole starting senior on either side of the ball, Marc Schmidt added 12 tackles while playing for the first time at middle linebacker, and sophomore Nick Brynoff had 6 tackles of his own for the Panthers.
“Stats don’t really ever matter, but what made the difference were all 11 players flying to the football every play,” said Schmidt, “especially when Academy coughed up their only fumble on a huge hit by Brian (Macchione). We had the whole team in on that downfield fumble recovery that (junior Adam) Weaver eventually came up with.”
The rest of that team who started on defense included junior Sam Little, and sophomores Dillon Berger, Connor Jennings, Henry Southway, Cody Garrett, Steven Kentfield, and Johnny Stensvad. One of the biggest plays of the game came when first year player, and the only other senior on the team, Kale Heckerson was playing for an injured player when he sealed the Panther victory with an interception with under 5 minutes to play in the game.
“What a huge play,” said Schmidt, “I wish he would have played all 4 years for us.”
However, he was not the only substitute to contribute to the defensive effort. Also adding to the Panther cause were juniors Garrett Norris and Daniel Arrellano and sophomores Kane Hutchinson and Mike Retzer.
“It was a huge TEAM win for us,” said Schmidt. “Everyone on this team contributed to the win – all the way down our roster. The scout team did an unbelievable job preparing our varsity players – they continually scrap, fight and challenge the first teamers and never complain.”
That team is led by sophomores Brendan Jackson and “Chappy” Anderson and freshman Hugh Campbell, Skyler Anderson, Cody Boy, Mike Hilton, Steve Simmons, Graham Webb, and Jace Linke. “We hope to get Jace (Linke) back at the Varsity level this week after a tough year of injuries,” added Schmidt. Even other injured players Tyler Wahldecker, Cody Hartman, Sage Wall, Adam Visconti made the trip and helped the team win with their enthusiasm and support.
“We are an unbelievably tight bunch,” said Schmidt.
The Middle Park offense continued to “pound the rock” and mash out another game of nearly 300 yards rushing against a 6 man front that averaged well over 6 foot, 230 pounds per player.
“I am so proud of what our O-line did,” said Schmidt, “I can’t express how well they all played.”
The unit is comprised of Kentfield, Jennings, Berger, Garrett, Brynoff, Hutchinson, and Weaver. They paved the way for Schmidt’s 141 yards of tough running including a touchdown and Macchione’s 108 yards at fullback. Although the offense only scored one touchdown, the Panthers did march deep enough into the Wildcat’s territory to attempt 4 field goals, of which Stensvad made good on 2 from 22 and 35 yards. He also added the extra-point to lead Panther scoring with 7 points on the day and completed a pass to Macchione for 7 yards.
“This was a huge, exciting and hard-fought win, especially with so much on the line,” said Schmidt.
Both teams needed wins to stay alive for the play-offs, and Academy was tied for second in the league going into the battle. However, now it is the Panthers who hope to stay in that second place position.
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