The South Park High School football team was left stunned after a 48-6 loss to the Del Norte Tigers in an away non-conference challenge Sept. 6.
“They were a tough opponent. They had some returning fielders that just brought the hammer down on us and they were tough to defend,” head coach Jim Carpenter said. “Due to injury and illness, we started out with low numbers of only 10 players to begin with and things just got a little brutal.”
The second loss on the season confounded South Park fans as the Burros entered the contest holding the upper hand from last year’s comparisons.
Having whipped the opponent 30-15 early in the 2018 season, the Burros went on to finish out with a 3-6 overall and a 2-2 conference record, which concluded the 2018 term with them ranking third out of five teams within the A-8 Central football standings, topping the Justice Phoenix (1-3, 2-6) and the Rocky Mountain Lutheran Eagles (0-4, 0-8).
“Although we have four returning starters from the senior class and two, a junior and a sophomore, that got some playing time last year, we’re still a fairly young team, as the rest of the roster is just starting out at the high school competition level,” Carpenter said.
After suffering the loss from the Burros the previous year, the Tigers went on to finish with a 2-7 overall and a 1-5 conference record, which seeded them sixth out of seven teams in the A-8 Mountain football standings, only surpassing the Sangre de Cristo Thunderbirds, who finished with a 0-6, 0-9 record.
“Last year was the first time that we had ever run up against Del Norte, so we really had nothing to go on then, but they have a very tenacious defense this year,” Carpenter said.
The game started with a taxing toe-to-toe defensive battle as the two adversaries pushed each other from one possession to another. It wasn’t until the Tigers found an opening and hit the end zone, followed by a successful two-point after touchdown conversion, that the hosting team took an eight-point lead in the first quarter.
“From there, they started capitalizing on our low numbers by popping some bigger plays and we just petered out,” Carpenter said.
Benefitting from their opponent’s handicap, the Tigers pounced time and again, adding an additional 27 points in the second quarter.
“They are a very fast team all-around and we couldn’t handle them on the line. It came down to Football 101, which was blocking and tackling, but we were getting man-handled,” Carpenter said.
Trailing by 35 points at the half, followed by another 13 points in the third quarter, the Burros turned the heat up when senior Michael Kelley completed an eight-yard touchdown run off of a quarterback sweep. Although the PAT was unsuccessful, the Burros were given the boost that they needed to finish the game, where they held their opponent from scoring in the fourth quarter.
“I feel that our base defense is pretty solid, and we are working on a good system; it’ll just take some time to get everything put together,” Carpenter said.
Having their first win of the season, the Tigers will now attempt to add to their win when facing the Rangely Panthers in a non-league game Sept. 13. The Panthers will enter the bout with a 2-0 record after their 42-34 win over Dove Creek.
With a 0-2 overall record, the Burros are looking for a comeback and will look for victory as they host the Denver Christian Thunder in an A-8 Central conference contest during South Park Homecoming Sept. 14.
“We’ll be working on a lot of technique this week and getting our basic stuff down. Hopefully, we can put a decent strategy together and come out with the win,” Carpenter said.
The Thunder will step onto Burro territory for their season-opening matchup, paralleled by debuting among their first A-8 Central competitors since joining the conference at the start of the Colorado High School Activities Association cycle this season.
Formerly running in the 1A/2A Metro League (11-man football) and the class 2A title winners in 2003, Denver Christian was clashed with obstacles over the years, which led to low numbers and ultimately forced a suspended football program in 2014, which was reported by CHSAAnow.com that year.
Rebuilding to a 16-man roster, the Thunder became a member of the A-8 Central (8-man football) conference this year and upped the team count to six in the standings, where the Elbert Bulldogs currently lead with a 1-1 overall record, followed by the Front Range Falcons (1-1), and South Park seeds third. Along with Denver Christian, the Justice Phoenix and the Rocky Mountain Lutheran Eagles have yet to play in their first game.