The only thing that would have made Monday night's Moffat County High School football banquet better was if it was a little bit longer. Instead of the traditional team banquet sleeper, Monday night's gathering was a three-hour energetic celebration of the team's first playoff bid in four years.
Included in the banquet were seven awards from the coaches of the Western Slope Conference. Two Bulldogs received honorable mention and five were named to the WSC All-Conference team.
"It just shows how good we became as a team this year," said first-team all-conference quarterback, junior Aaron Sanchez. "We had a great time this year and it is something to build on for the future."
Honorable mention honors went to juniors Shea Carr and Cody Palmer.
Carr played linebacker and safety for the Bulldogs and head coach Kip Hafey said the junior's work ethic and determination were what earned him the honor.
Palmer, one of the fastest wide receivers in the conference, made several big plays for the Bulldogs and led the team with 19 receptions. Palmer scored the lone touchdown in regulation against Steamboat Springs in the Bulldog's 14-13 win.
The MoCo athletes on the WSC All-Conference team were three defenders and two players on offense.
The three defenders anchored a squad, which according to statistics in the Rocky Mountain News led Class 3A in sacks (36) and in interceptions (21).
The 9-5-9 attack surrendered 13.6 points per game in conference play and allowed only 21 to 3A's top offense, Palisade. The Palisade Bulldogs scored no fewer than 21 points only two other times during the season and has reached state championship game this weekend.
Outside was not a place teams wanted to run against the Bulldogs and that was due to junior defensive end Nick Goodenow and senior end Alan Horrocks, both first teamers.
"(Being named to the first team) was a goal that I set for myself at the beginning of the year," Horrocks said. "It's unusual for so many games to be so much fun during the season but it happened and it's due to the guys around me."
Horrocks' numbers weren't huge this year but as the coaches pointed out, no one wanted to run toward his side.
The beneficiary of teams running away from Horrocks was Goodenow. The junior finished the season with 13 sacks (third in Class 3A), 70 tackles and according to Hafey, "a lot of hurt on some people." He also earned the Bulldog's MVP award on the defensive side.
The third defensive player was senior d-back Danny Torgerson. "Torg" picked off eight passes on the season and hopes to continue his career in college.
"This year was a big confidence booster for me," he said. "I was tiny as a freshman and would have never imagined having an opportunity to play in college. But the coaches believed in me and I kept working hard and it paid off."
At the banquet the coaches stressed that when it comes to putting the ball in the end zone, the future of MCHS football relies on the hands and feet of Sanchez. In his first year as the varsity QB, Sanchez threw for 1,320 yards (third in 3A) and ran for 542. With several long runs on special teams Sanchez had more than 2,000 all-purpose yards.
"I knew I had to step up if the team was to do well this year," Sanchez said.
"I think the conference knows they'll have to watch out for us next year just as much."
Finally, the player with the most varsity experience on the team coming into the season he played a little as a freshman and kept earning more playing time senior Eric Bastow. He led the team in rushing with 627 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. He was awarded the MVP for the Bulldog offense as coach Hafey called him the workhorse and said that he "did everything we ever asked him to do."
About the honor Bastow said, "It is something I've worked for since my freshman year when I saw those seniors receive the honor. I hope I can look back in the future and say, 'I helped build that tradition' when the Bulldogs keep getting better."
As the banquet came to a close the attendees were treated to the only public performance of the Tad Behrens' shimmy and footage of Hafey eating a worm before the Glenwood Springs game.
The mood was happy and the theme was "watch out next year" as no one even dared fall asleep. They just hoped the banquet would be longer and later in the season next year.
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