Steamboat Springs It's hard for Sailors head football coach Mark Drake to remember the last time one of his teams faced Montezuma-Cortez on the gridiron.
But he is quick to point out that in his 30-plus years of coaching, it has only happened once. That was a playoff game at a neutral site about six years ago.
"I know absolutely nothing about Cortez," Drake said. "I'm hoping we will get some tape and some scouting reports so we know something before we play them."
The Panthers will be one of two new teams in the Western Slope Conference this year and will host the Sailors in a 1:30 p.m. game on Oct. 21. Drake has had a lot more experience with the other "new" team the Palisade Bulldogs. Palisade was in the conference until two years ago. And they and the Sailors met regularly even when they weren't in the same conference.
But Montezuma-Cortez is another story.
"I heard they have a new coach this year," Drake said. "I know they are dropping in from a larger division. But other than that, I don't know anything."
Every couple of years, the state uses the latest enrollment figures to redistribute teams among the size classifications. Based on the latest count, Palisade dropped down into the 3A Western Slope Conference from 4A. Likewise, Gunnison and Eagle Valley dropped out of the 3A Western Slope into a 2A conference. Montezuma-Cortez was reinstated as a conference team after playing as an independent squad for two years.
The Panthers new coach, Karl McGee, comes to Cortez from McPherson High School in Kansas. He hails from Colorado, though, and once played high school football for Nucla.
The coach said he hasn't set any expectations for his team in the upcoming season, but was quick to add that the Panthers' 12 seniors are looking forward to their first chance to qualify of the state playoffs in more than two years.
"The kids are really excited that they will have something to play for and making the playoffs is definitely a goal,"McGee said.
The Panthers finished the season with a 4-5 record last year and played teams from New Mexico for the most part. This season they will have to face a few more Colorado teams, but that doesn't have McGee too worried.
"We have a great bunch of kids and we will just have to see what happens," he said.
The team will feature good speed anchored by senior Josh Lee. Lee was fourth in the class 4A long jump last season and will bring that same speed to the football field this fall.
If the team does have a weakness, McGee said it has to be chemistry. He is hoping his players and coaching staff will gel the first few weeks and be ready to roll by the time the conference games begin.
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