Bulldogs begin critical stretch

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Must-win games.

That's what the Moffat County High School varsity football team is facing in its last two regular season games in order to clinch a playoff spot.

A week ago, the Bulldogs earned a 42-20 victory over Glenwood Springs to move to 4-4 on the year and 3-2 in league play. Saturday at noon at the MCHS field the Bulldogs will battle the Gunnison Cowboys, who stand at 5-3 on the season and 4-1 in conference.

"This is another big game for us," said Bulldogs coach John Haddan. "We had to win every game the last couple of weeks and every game is big from here on out."

With two weeks left in the regular season, the Western Slope League shapes up with Rifle in front with a 5-0 record. Delta and Gunnison are next at 4-1. Moffat County and Steamboat Springs are tied with 3-2 records. Glenwood Springs is next with a 1-4 record and Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley sit in last place with 0-5 marks.

"Conference has kind of shaped up like we thought it would," said Haddan. "Rifle and Delta are playing tough. Gunnison, Steamboat Springs and Moffat County are fighting for a playoff spot. Delta and Steamboat Springs both have a couple of tough games left. We have a couple of tough games left and everybody just has to win out to go to the playoffs."

Haddan believes the Bulldogs stack up well against the Cowboys on both sides of the ball.

"We match up really well with Gunnison on defense, offense and on special teams," said Haddan. "With the game on Saturday we get an extra day of practice and that always helps. We are excited about a Saturday afternoon game."

Haddan said the Bulldogs will have to play fundamentally sound against the Cowboys.

"We need to continue to play tough defense," said Haddan. "We will have to eliminate our turnovers, penalties and execute on offense.

"Gunnison runs the ball really well. They have two really good running backs and they do throw the ball well at times, but we have to shut down their run first."

According to senior running back and linebacker Frank Counts, the Bulldogs will have to take their game to another level.

"I think that we will have to step up all around against Gunnison," said Counts. "We have to win this game to go to the playoffs. On defense we will have to step it up a notch and on offense we will have to step it up a couple of notches. Gunnison runs the ball about 90 percent of the time and they have three real big running backs."

A week ago, the Cowboys rolled past Eagle Valley, 49-25.

"Offensively we moved the ball pretty well against Eagle Valley," said Cowboys coach Bob Howard. "Defensively, we probably gave up too much. I don't know how much of that was Eagle Valley or us looking at their 0-7 record. It's kind of hard to judge why our defense didn't play that well."

Howard believes the Moffat County game will either make or break the season for both teams.

"I know that this game is big for both of us," said Howard. "If the Bulldogs win they are looking good for playoffs and if we lose we are not looking good for a playoff spot. We are kind of both in that spot."

According to Howard, his offense will have its hands full.

"The Bulldogs have a very physical defense," said Howard. "They have some linebackers that are outstanding. The two that I have seen is Kevin Field and Frank Counts. They also have some help up front on the defensive line. Whoever controls the line of scrimmage and has the upper hand of both sides will control the tempo of the game a little bit better."

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