In 2018, Lake County High School’s football team finished just 1-8 with five shutout losses and scored only 50 points.
One of the Panthers’ defeats came 41-0 against Ignacio, beneficiaries of four turnovers.
But what a difference a year makes.
Ultimately as unlucky as a team could be, the Ignacio Bobcats left Leadville last Saturday on the short side of a head-scratching 8-7 loss in which IHS managed its lone touchdown via a long Gabe Tucson interception return but had potential opportunities halted by Lake County senior Gerald Mandonado and sophomore Ben Lowry, each intercepting IHS senior quarterback Ian Weinreich.
Lake County senior Carlos Saucedo was credited with 102 yards on 17 carries, but without his equalizing 48-yard scoring scamper later in the game, the Panthers, who combined for just 114 yards on the ground, would have averaged just 1.9 yards for each of 34 other attempts.
Senior Luke Allen, who managed to plow in for what stood as the winning 2-point conversion after Saucedo’s run, was held to 1-of-10 passing for a paltry seven yards, meaning Ignacio’s defense was definitely up to the task.
It will have to be so again Friday night when the Bobcats (1-2) make the long drive east to Walsenburg to rumble with the John Mall Panthers. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Seeking to spoil John Mall’s final homecoming Week game as a Class 1A 11-man football program – a drop to the 1A 8-man ranks awaits John Mall next fall – IHS will have to not only find a way to get its own Joe Garcia/Lawrence Toledo-led ground game going, but, more importantly, slow Panther senior Wesley “A.J.” Van Matre, who neared 900 yards rushing in 2018 and who began 2019 with a reported 224 yards on 22 tries against Colorado Springs St. Mary’s.
His two TDs in a one-point loss to the Pirates stand as John Mall’s only points to date, as John Mall slipped to 0-2 overall last Friday with a 35-0 home loss to Rye. Van Matre racked up another 152 yards on 25 punishing carries, but the now-No. 10 Thunderbolts featured four backs booking 50 or more yards in the blowout and attempted but three passes, completing one.
John Mall quarterback Travis Vialpando, a junior, has thrown for only 20 yards. So, should the Bobcats manage to contain Van Matre, any pressure applied in the backfield should pay dividends in terms of field position and, ultimately, morale toward avenging last year’s 44-23 loss at IHS Field.
BACK IN THE FOLD While John Mall, a former Class 1A Southern Peaks League member, prepares to descend a notch into CHSAA’s 8-man realm, another current 8-man program is preparing to rejoin the Class 1A 11-man fray. Del Norte, which Ignacio last faced in 2013 – a 55-0 Bobcat win at IHS Field – will become a SPL program again in 2020, while Lake County, coincidentally, is set to replace the Tigers in the A-8 Mountain Conference.