Cortez The Sailors football team couldn't have asked for a better start for its first league game on Friday night as the Panthers basically gave away 14 points after the opening kickoff and then rolled over to a 35-6 beating.
Montezuma-Cortez fumbled while attempting to punt deep into its own territory during the first possession of the game, leading to a 1-yard plunge by senior running back Pat McMahon.
The home team then fumbled on its second possession, giving the Sailors the ball on the 6-yard line. Senior running back Patrick Rogers eventually dove 1 yard into the end zone to make the score 14-0, with 5:50 left in the first quarter.
The early breathing room was more than welcomed by the Sailors, with starting quarterback Joel Adams out because of an injury and backup Jeff Franks at the helm.
Turnovers weren't the only thing the Panthers were giving away in Cortez, though; the young team was also penalized 112 yards in the game.
"Mistakes are what killed us," Panther coach Tom Adair said.
But the Sailors offense didn't move in for the kill right away. It failed to consistently move the ball up the field in the first half. In fact, the Panthers outrushed and outpassed the Sailors. But the Sailors defense didn't let anyone in the end zone and came up with big turnovers. In the second quarter, Cory Moore picked off a fourth-down pass from Cortez quarterback Ronnie Johnson and ran the ball 35 yards to the Panthers' red zone.
A few plays later, Rogers got his second touchdown of the night on a 4-yard run, giving the Sailors a 21-0 lead at the half.
Zach Forcum then stepped up on offense early in the third quarter. He took a handoff in the Sailors' first possession after the half and ran 51 yards for a touchdown, giving the Sailors a 28-0 lead.
It was Forcum's unofficial announcement that he was back on the field after missing two preseason games because of injury. In the Panthers' next drive, another big play by the defense set up a score. John Bowers picked off a Johnson pass and he ran it 51 yards to the Panthers' 12-yard line.
McMahon then ran for his second touchdown for 12 yards, seemingly putting the game out of reach with 8:28 left in the third quarter.
The Panthers did develop some offense after the score. Sophomore Matt Knisley replaced Johnson at quarterback in the third quarter. He tallied 102 yards of rushing in the second half. But it produced only one score, on a 1-yard run by Knisley with 5:08 left in the game.
"I think we played well. The line did a real good job and we were ready to play," Forcum said.
"I was pleased with how they executed the plays," Sailors coach Mark Drake said. "You always work harder on executing the plays after a player goes down but yes, we still have a lot of improvement."
The Sailors are now 3-1 overall and 1-0 in league play. Cortez dropped to 1-3 overall.
Steamboat returns to action at 7 p.m. Friday as it hosts Palisade.