Conner makes his mark for Rangers
MONUMENT - A lot of talented quarterbacks have donned a Lewis-Palmer High School football jersey over the years. But none have enjoyed a better career than Nate Conner.
When the Rangers’ senior hangs up his cleats, he will do so as the most prolific passer in school history, as well as its winningest.
“He has the quickest release we’ve ever had,” said Lewis-Palmer football coach Tony Ramunno, whose guided the program for 24 seasons. “He’s so accurate, and he has a lot of confidence in himself.”
Few quarterbacks in state history enjoyed a better month of October than Conner. Twice in a span of 13 days, he accounted for six and five touchdowns in a game, respectively.
In the Rangers’ 48-26 victory over Mitchell on Oct. 25, Conner had touchdown runs of 39, 3 and 24 yards. He tossed a 42-yard touchdown pass to senior slot Sean Grundman, and returned an interception (he is the team’s starting free safety) 77 yards for a touchdown.
Against Coronado on Oct. 12, Conner accounted for all six Rangers touchdowns - four rushing and two passing to Grundman - during a 40-20 victory.
“We were just clicking that game,” Conner said. “We were all on the same page.
“I knew I had the two passing to Sean, but I didn’t realize I had that many rushing until after the game. That was the best I ran the ball all year.”
Grundman credits Conner’s success with his tremendous work ethic.
“He knows his craft,” Grundman said. “He throws the ball on a dime. He’s the most accurate quarterback I’ve ever seen.”
Conner (6-foot-2, 175 pounds) is every bit as good as his statistics suggest. He has completed 102 of 179 passes for 1,716 yards. The right-handed gunslinger has passed for 14 touchdowns, while throwing nine interceptions.
But it is also Conner’s ability to run that makes him one of the most feared players in the state at his position. He has 491 yards on 89 attempts (5.52 average), including 14 touchdowns.
If you add all of his touchdowns together (14 passing, 14 rushing, 1 on an interception return) he has accounted for 60 percent of the team’s total touchdowns on offense and defense.
“I have to lead the team and bring my `A’ game,” Conner said. “We just have to keep focusing one game at a time.”
Conner is being pursued by several Division II colleges. Among them are No. 1 nationally-ranked Colorado State University-Pueblo, Adams State and Nebraska-Kearney.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity of playing college football,” said Conner, who is the starting center fielder on the school’s baseball team.
The versatile Conner is also the team’s starting free safety and handles the kickoff duties.
“Because Nate plays a ton defense I don’t have him on the sidelines talking to him,” Ramunno said. “He’s so talented. He could probably long snap if we needed him to.”
Conner had a record-breaking campaign as a junior when he set the school record for yards passing in a season (1,884), while completing 137 of 228 passes. He also tossed 19 touchdowns. He also ran for 296 yards and three scores, while leading Lewis-Palmer to a 9-3 record and the quarterfinals of the Class 3A playoffs. He was named the league’s offensive back MVP.
Conner had an injury-riddled sophomore season, completing just 5 of 6 passes in a reserve role. He played in just three regular season games before breaking his collarbone. He came back and saw action in the quarterfinals playoff game against Glenwood Spring and threw a touchdown before rebreaking the same collarbone.
As impressive a season as Conner has enjoyed this year, he and his Rangers teammates may find themselves on the outside looking in when the playoff selections are announced on Sunday. If the Rangers (5-4, 3-1 South Central League) defeat Woodland Park (3-6, 1-3) in their final regular season game on Friday, they still might not have enough wild-card points to break into the top 16. They are 22nd in the standings, but 19th in wild-card points.
Lewis-Palmer will likely finish second in league to Discovery Canyon (8-1, 4-0). The Rangers and Thunder met in Week 6 (the league opener for both teams) on Oct. 4 at District 20 Stadium, with Discovery Canyon coming out on top 38-27 as Conner threw a pair of interceptions.