Granby " Panthers exact revenge against tough Academy team |

Granby " Panthers exact revenge against tough Academy team

Will Bublitz
Grand County, Colorado
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
Sky-Hi Daily News | Sky-Hi Daily News

After struggling much of the season, Middle Park High’s football team pulled off a 31-7 upset victory over a tough Academy team in Denver on Saturday, Oct. 11.

The Panthers, playing out of Granby, Colorado, entered last weekend’s gridiron contest with a 1-5 record while Academy’s Wildcats were 3-3.

“Academy was on the Panthers’ 2008 Revenge List,” said coach Marc Loberg. “Last year, Academy beat us for the first time, which left a sour feeling with our underclassmen. We knew it was going to be a big game for us, and we had the added incentive of overcoming a team that’s dominated some teams from other Colorado leagues.”

Saturday’s game got off to a rocky start for Middle Park’s offense, which squandered its first possession on a 3 and out. But the Panther defense more than made up for it as they caused Academy to fumble on their first possession deep in their own territory

Taking quick advantage of this turnover, the Panther offense drove toward the goal line. In one final push by the offensive linemen, quarterback Mike Schmidt crashed through into the end zone on a 2-yard run. Middle Park kicker Jordan Reynolds then added the extra point with an accurate kick through the goal posts.

Recovering from their surprise, the Wildcats put together a successful drive on their next possession. The touchdown and extra-point kick in the first quarter proved to be their only points of the game.

As the game entered the second quarter, Academy again coughed up the ball in another fumble to give the Panther’s their second touchdown on a 2-yard run by Joey Visconti. Reynolds then added the extra point with another excellent kick.

“Our Panther outside linebackers were coached all week long to blow up Academy’s quarterback every time he had the ball, and Zane Bickler and Mike Schmidt did just that,” Loberg said. “When it was all said and done, Academy fumbled the ball five times and threw one interception to Jordan Reynolds.”

In the middle of second quarter, Reynolds got to practice his accuracy some more by booting a 36-yard field goal to open up a 17-7 lead for Middle Park.

A few plays later, the Panther defense once again stopped the Wildcats in their tracks and forced a fourth-down punt. In what Loberg described as “a jail break,” Middle Park outside linebacker Zane Bickler charged into block the kick, scooped up the ball and ran it across Academy’s goal line for a TD. Reynolds then put the icing on the cake with another extra- point kick that left Middle Park with a 24-7 half-time lead.

The Panthers were able to get one more touchdown and extra-point kick in the second half, but it was the team’s defense that was outstanding. Middle Park defensemen held Academy’s offense to only three first downs and no points before the game ended.

Coach Loberg showered praise on the excellent work done by the defense.

“Jake Finch and Eric Scholl both had outstanding defensive games with 10 tackles each,” he said. “Mitch Strang, Mitch Sprague, Trey Jennings, Vinny Crippen and Chris Hillison made it difficult for Academy to find running room from their DL positions. And Jordan Reynolds’ interception, Justin Cisneros’s two pass break-ups and Marc Schmidt’s monster hit made it nearly impossible for Academy to throw the ball.”

While ecstatic about the team’s defense, Loberg was also very pleased with the Panther offense last Saturday.

“We racked up almost 200 yards rushing in slippery conditions,” he said. “So it’s hats off to the offensive line of seniors Mitch Sprague and Mitch Strang and juniors Charlie Miller, Kyle Anderson, and Cory Berger. Also, Joey Visconti had 14 carries for 52 yards and one TD that added a real one-two punch with Zane Bickler who made 12 carries for 50 yards to provide the inside and outside running game.”

The surprise victory over Academy is encouraging the Panthers to believe their season has finally turned around.

“This was a great win for our players.” Loberg said. “They have been working hard and making improvements, but it’s tough to see those things when you are playing the toughest schedule in the state that included taking on four of the top 10-ranked teams. It’s a good thing when the kids can put it all together and come out with a win.”

With two wins now under their belts, Middle Park’s football players are hoping to add a third victory against the 4-3 Bishop Machebeuf team tonight during the Panthers’ Homecoming game starting at 6 p.m. Last fall, Middle Park defeated the Buffalos during their Homecoming game in Aurora.

“This is the best Machebeuf team we have faced in over 15 years,” Loberg said.

“Their game against Faith Christian was carried on Denver TV and there is a lot of talk around their starting junior tailback Aubrey Pricket as being one of the best tailbacks in the state.”

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