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Montezuma-Cortez hosts Delta for Homecoming game

Tay Wheat avoids tacklers on his way to a 61-yard pass play for a Panthers touchdown.
M-CHS shows spark in front of a large crowd

CORTEZ – Montezuma-Cortez keeps showing signs that they’re edging closer to playing with the top dogs. The Panthers brought plenty of energy in front of a packed house at Panther Stadium, highlighted by several moments that brought the crowd to its feet.

However, state-ranked Delta imposed a punishing ground game that proved to be too much, as the visitors spoiled the Panthers’ Homecoming night with a 49-8 victory.

In a battle of Panther mascots, Delta entered with an impressive resume to start the season, ranked No. 6 in the most recent CHSAA coaches poll. For M-CHS head coach Ivan Mack, there was no doubt about Delta’s power.

“They’re a strong, physical football team,” said Mack. “In our week of preparation, we saw that they had some areas that were going to give us some challenges.”

Foremost was the Delta ground game, which boasted a premier tandem of running back Timothy Horn and quarterback Ty Reed. Horn punched in the game’s first score with four minutes gone, capping a thorough drive where Delta showed its full intention – run the ball between the tackles.

On M-CHS’ second possession, the Panthers moved the ball more effectively, but while trying to keep a play alive, the Panthers coughed up the football, and Delta returned it to the end zone. Scarcely six minutes into the contest, Mack’s Panthers found themselves behind 14-0.

Momentum shifted, however, with a pair of big plays for M-CHS that appeared with change the dynamic of the contest. After a M-CHS punt, Delta sat poised with good field position to strike again. However, it was the Panthers defense that came up with one of their big plays of the night.

The Panthers linebacking core punched the ball free from Horn’s arms, and freshman Dalton Muzzy scooped it up. Moments later, junior quarterback Jake Blackmer connected with classmate Caden Cote, who caught the ball in the flat, then, with the defense in pursuit, pitched it to freshman Tay Wheat, who raced past the Delta defense for a 61-yard score that ignited the black-and-orange sideline.

After the score, the Panthers defense forced a punt, which pinned Blackmer and company inside their own 10 yard-line. The rash of early season turnovers reared its head for the Panthers, though, as Delta pressure forced Blackmer to throw into traffic, leading to an interception for Delta’s Konnor Workman, which he returned for the score.

The visitors seized full momentum back, as Horn scored his second TD of the game to begin the second quarter, before Reed connected with Workman on the lone passing score of the contest for Delta to balloon the lead to 35-6.

Delta added a defensive touchdown on the night right before halftime, as Alex Ward returned an interception 65 yards to put the game out of reach.

“They ran a defense similar to what we like to do,” said Mack, “and they were wanting blitz linebackers and try to apply a lot of pressure on our quarterback.”

Delta invaded the backfield all night, which left M-CHS working with a makeshift offense to finish out the game, as Cote stepped in when Blackmer left with an injury in the third quarter.

In the second half, the Panthers defense provided one more highlight, as junior Dorrian Hilliard sacked Ty Reed in the end zone for a safety for the first defensive score for M-CHS this season.

The Panthers celebrated their Homecoming festivities with a stirring performance by the M-CHS Marching Panthers at halftime, and the announcement of seniors Emalie Myers and Kiernan Korthank as the homecoming royalty.

After their first decisive defeat of the season, Mack recognized that this result might sting. “I looked in ours guys’ faces after the contest,” added Mack, “and I know that they could walk away demoralized after tonight, but I didn’t feel like that was the attitude of the team.”

M-CHS will refocus for a cross-county matchup against Mancos Friday night. The Panthers and Bluejays, seldom opponents on the gridiron, will face off for local bragging rights at 7 p.m. Sept. 24 from Mancos.

Coverage of Panther football on local radio station 98.7 KRTZ kicks off with the pre-game commencing at 6:30 p.m. for the highly anticipated matchup.