As Moffat County High School sophomore offensive lineman Mike Babb walked off the field with 7.2 seconds remaining in the MCHS/Palisade football game he looked up and said, "Too little, too late."
The lineman's statement came after MoCo had scored on a 20-yard pass play from junior quarterback Aaron Sanchez to senior running back Eric Bastow to bring the score to 21-14 in favor of Palisade.
The blue and white Bulldogs out-scored the maroon and silver Bulldogs 14-7 in the second half, but a 14-0 deficit at halftime was too much to overcome.
While the Moffat County defense held the state's highest scoring offense to 15 points below its average, turnovers and mental mistakes on offense in the first half buried the team early.
"We didn't come out in the first half like we wanted to play," said MCHS senior running back Joe Padon.
The first quarter didn't look like two playoff-caliber offenses were on the field.
With 6:30 remaining in the opening quarter Sanchez threw an interception. Two plays later Palisade's Dustin Harris threw an interception to MCHS's junior linebacker Shea Carr.
MCHS was unable to take advantage of the interception and punted. After a pass interference call Palisade was threatening on the Moffat County 32-yard line. MoCo linebacker Jason Mosher stopped the drive when he recovered a fumble on the 25-yard line.
Two plays later Bastow fumbled on the same 25-yard line but the ball bounced back to the five and Palisade recovered.
The MoCo defense was unable to stop Palisade fullback Travis Bounds on the next play as he carried three would-be tacklers into the end zone for a 7-0 lead with 29 seconds left in the first quarter.
"Each turnover just made things go more downhill for us," Padon said. "When you make so many mistakes against a good team your chances to win quickly disappear."
In the second quarter the ball stayed in the middle of the field as each team threw an interception and penalties by Palisade negated two big gains.
With 55 seconds remaining in the half it looked as if Palisade would keep handing the ball to workhorse Bounds and run out the clock, but on an pitch to the outside Bounds pulled back and launched a 30-yard completion to sophomore Kyle Britton. With 34 seconds remaining in the half the maroon and white were in business. On third-and-goal with 13 seconds remaining Harris found Eli Groh in the end zone.
As Moffat County went into the locker room for halftime, the offense had gained eight yards and the 14-0 deficit seemed larger.
"It's not surprising that we had so few yards in the first half," said head coach Kip Hafey. "We lined up in the wrong places, ran the wrong plays and couldn't catch the ball. We're lucky we weren't behind by more."
Moffat County opened the second half with the ball and on the first play from scrimmage Padon broke up the middle for more yards 11 than his team had the first half. The rest of the drive MoCo sliced through the Palisade defense like skis in fresh powder. They had plays of 20, 14, 11 and 22 yards and Bastow capped it off with a 1-yard score. The visiting Bulldogs were back in the game and the offense had new life with 8:07 left in the third quarter trailing, 14-7.
After the score, Palisade coach Todd Casebier decided it was time to put the game on the shoulders of his fullback, Bounds, who already had 13 carries for 73 yards. Palisade drove the ball 60-yards 41 by Bounds and ran seven minutes off the clock.
The maroon and silver offensive machine had five third-down conversions in the drive and slowly strangled the momentum from Moffat County on a1-yard
touchdown from Bounds
with 2:38 remaining in the third quarter.
Moffat County received the ball and continued to drive as they had in the first possession of the half. After three first downs Palisade's Britton intercepted Sanchez to stop the drive.
The rest of the quarter was a defensive battle until Moffat County reached the end zone with 7.2 seconds remaining in the game.
"At this point in the season a win, ugly or not, is a win," Casebier said. "The Moffat County defense is one tough group. That No. 25 (sophomore linebacker Scott Garoutte) is the real deal."
The Moffat County defense was impressed by their counterparts as well.
"That Bounds was one tough guy to tackle," said junior defensive end Nick Goodenow. "They showed us some of our weaknesses tonight."
With the win, Palisade earned second place in the Western Slope Conference and will face defending state champions Alamosa (8-2, third in the Southern Conference) at home in the first round of
the playoffs. Moffat County finished third in the WSC and will travel to Pueblo to face Pueblo County (9-1, second in the Southern Conference) on
Saturday for its first playoff game since '99.
"We came into this game pretty cocky as a team," Goodenow said. "They slapped some of that out of us and will help us to refocus for the playoffs."
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org