By STEPHEN JIRON
Courier Sports Editor
BLANCA — The distinction of the first football game in the valley goes to Sierra Grande this year. Both the Panthers and Sanford will be playing on Friday but Sierra Grande’s start time will begin five hours earlier. The Sierra Grande Panthers will play their home opener against the recently dominant team in the 6 Man Southwest league, La Veta.
La Veta has been a regular in the postseason these past few years. A small break in the consistency, this weekend’s visitor had something of an offseason in 2018 closing the year with a 4-5 record. Despite that, they would take a forfeit win over the visiting Sierra Grande team.
An outlook on the 2019 season, La Veta will be fielding a similar team to last year, save the biggest contributor lost in Ty Warren. Warren had a hand in most stats. Offensively, Warren led the team in production with 9 touchdowns and a team-leading 869 total yards. Warren was a danger on the other side of the ball as well finishing second on the team in tackles with 74 and first on the team in sacks with 11. Without Warren La Veta will be relying heavily on Zamir Holguin. Holguin was the team leader in rushing yards and touchdowns and the Panthers can likely expect a healthy dose of Holguin on Friday.
On defense, Holguin took the team title for tackles with 85 and will be the anchor when Sierra Grande has the ball.
The Panthers saw the graduation of seniors Mathias Gilmartin and Ambrosio Mondragon. Last year’s seniors will likely be missed most on the defensive side of the ball as they led the Panthers in both sacks and interceptions.
A cursory look at the Panthers suggests that Sierra Grande will go as far as Caleb Scharsch can take them. Scharsch has been a revelation for the Panthers during his career at Sierra Grande leading the team in rushing touchdowns in his freshman year and adding 1,006 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns last year. Sierra Grande will look to rely heavily on Scharsch now in his junior year.
Defensively, the Panthers will see the return of tackle leader Richie Atencio and sack leader Isias Minchaca. Atencio paced Sierra Grande with 64 tackles in his sophomore year and now senior Minchaca who tied for the team lead in sacks with 3.
Sierra Grande and La Veta meet Friday afternoon Aug. 30th at 1 p.m.