By David Pressgrove
Daily Press Writer
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The famous introduction into Charles Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities" describes Moffat County High School's freshmen/sophomore football game Thursday night. The Bulldog underclassmen experienced the "Tale of Two Halves" in a 20-6 loss to the Hayden Tigers in their season opener.
"We came out strong that first drive but it got much tougher after that," said freshmen head coach Gary Torgerson. "I'm sure the loss tears the heart right out of them."
Prior to this game the freshmen team had gone undefeated in seventh and eighth grade. Early on it looked like they would add Hayden to their win tally.
After the first two plays on offense went nowhere on the Bulldog's first possession, quarterback Derek Duran broke down the right side for a 50-yard scramble to the Hayden 9-yard line. A minute later Duran finished the job, punching it in for a 6-0 lead.
"I thought the game was ours after that first drive," Duran said. "After that we were having good plays but they kept bringing it on and would hold us off."
The rest of the second half was a battle between the end zones with no teams crossing over the goal line.
Part of the scoring stalemate was due to the fact that it just wasn't the Tigers' night, particularly on special teams.
The first Bulldog punt by senior soccer import Brandon Duarte sailed over the head of the returner for a big loss. The Tiger punt returning also resulted in two turnovers in the half. One came by way of a dropped kick and another Duarte line drive bounced off a Tiger into the hands of a boy in blue.
"There were a couple fluke plays the first half that went against us," said Tiger defensive coordinator Shawn Baumgartner.
"We went in and made a few adjustments during halftime and came out focused."
After an exchange of punts at the beginning of the second half the Tiger attack came alive. After a 30-yard punt return by the Hayden, senior quarterback Kelly Bruchez connected with Allan Lighthizer for a 14-yard gain to the Bulldog 1-yard line. Bruchez followed blockers into the end zone for the team's first score of the season. The conversion was stuffed and with 5:45 left in the third quarter the game stood tied at 6-6.
The Bulldogs were stopped again on the next drive and a delay of game penalty added to their offensive woes.
The start of the ensuing drive by the Tigers looked like a copy of the previous effort. A big punt return, followed by another big-gain pass to Lighthizer had the Tigers right back inside the Bulldog 20-yard line. After a pass interference call on the 'Dawgs advanced the ball to the 8-yard line, Bruchez found Evan Hilling in the end zone. After a two-point conversion the score stood at 14-6 at the end of the third quarter.
Craig opened up the fourth quarter with some Bronco-esque trickery on a flea flicker for a twenty yard gain, but it was called back after a holding penalty. Much of the fourth quarter went the same way for the Bulldogs. Three-and-outs or turnovers plagued the home team including an interception that deflected off of Kevin Loughran into the hands of a Hayden defender.
The pick-off set up Hayden's third scoring drive which was capped off by sophomore sensation Cam Whiteman's two-yard drive making the score 20-6.
Despite a couple of impressive plays on their final drives the silver helmeted home team was unable to score the remainder of the game.
"They wore us down physically," said Torgerson.
"We were tired and frustrated the second half."
Defensive coach Matt Ray said he thought the young Bulldogs were impressive in their first outing.
"I think we only missed one or two assignments all game," he said. "Considering we played all freshmen on defense the second half and they are a varsity team who is bigger and stronger, we did well."
The freshmen will tackle their own age group Tuesday against West Grand.
"I feel sorry for the West Grand team because our kids aren't used to losing," Torgerson said. "They already want to play again."