Palisade coach Todd Casebier talks about the two key points in a football game. One of them is the first possession after halftime.
Although his team floundered on that possession, fumbling the ball on the Moffat County 40-yard line, they hung on to win 20-15.
As Casebier said, the game nearly hinged on that one play. The sluggish Moffat County Bulldogs finally started to move the ball, capitalized on the fumble and eventually took the lead only minutes into the fourth quarter.
But another, almost inconceivable play sealed Moffat County's fate with two minutes left in the game.
Trailing 15-14, facing fourth and nine in their own territory, the Palisade Bulldogs threw a pass that seemed to have no chance. The ball hung in the air over midfield, where a lone Palisade receiver brought the ball down in the midst of several blue jerseys. The 40-yard pass set Palisade up with great field position at the Moffat County 22-yard line. It only took them two plays to put the ball in the end zone, take the lead with 1:18 on the clock and seal Moffat County's fate.
"We didn't have the momentum until Cody Nystrom made that great catch," Casebier said.
Moffat County coach Kip Hafey was in disbelief. "It's fourth and long, they throw a hail mary, our guys tip it, their receiver makes the catch. Sometimes things are meant to happen."
It appeared the Moffat County defensive backs were trying to intercept the ball. Assistant Coach Lance Scranton later reminded them just to knock the ball down and force an incompletion.
Even after Palisade's last score, the Moffat County Bulldogs made it down to the Palisade 30 yard line, threatening to score with less than a minute left in the game.
Moffat County quarterback Derek Duran threw an incomplete pass to senior receiver Cody Palmer, but it resulted in an interference call against Palisade.
Senior Aaron Sanchez ran for a first down, but it was called back on a holding penalty.
Palmer stood three feet from the sideline and told Hafey to give him the ball. Palmer said after the game he just felt like he wanted to fight for his team.
"I just wanted to do anything to try and help my team," Palmer said. "If they throw me the ball, I'll do anything."
Standing near the sideline, the senior receiver said, "Trust me."
Hafey said, "Trust this," and called a play.
Duran then completed a pass to junior Tyler Pike and the Bulldogs looked on the verge of a last minute rally. But on the very next play, Sanchez was pressured in the backfield as he tried to hit Palmer deep in the end zone. Sanchez barely released the ball just as he was hit.
It wasn't a spiral.
It fell short.
Palisade intercepted the ball and with two seconds on the clock, the game was over.
Speaking to his players after the game, Hafey said, "If you've never felt a sense of urgency, you better feel it now. I don't know about you, but the playoffs aren't good enough for me. I want it all."
He was frustrated with his team's inability to put together four solid quarters of football. Moffat County was nearly unstoppable in the second-half, but didn't start with that same force.
"There's no doubt, if this team plays four quarters, they have four more games ahead of them," Hafey said. "Next week we're the underdog and I don't care."
Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.