Take it to the next level.
That has been the message all year for the Moffat County High School football team after it reached the playoffs last year and was eliminated in the first round by Pueblo County, 28-11.
This year the Bulldogs open the playoffs in a similar situation. Again, they are the third seed from the Western Slope Conference and they travel to a second seed from another conference.
A difference is that instead of the second seed from the Southern Conference, it is the Tri-Valley Conference.
Moffat County's opponent is the Berthoud Spartans, who finished in a three-way tie in the Tri-Valley and were awarded the second seed by virtue of a tiebreaker.
The Spartans are 6-4 compared to the Bulldogs' 7-3 record. The teams have two common opponents during the season in Steamboat Springs and Fort Morgan. The Spartans lost 20-7 to Steamboat and beat Fort Morgan 7-6 in overtime. The Bulldogs lost 22-12 to the Sailors and controlled the Mustangs 41-12. But those results don't really mean much in the playoffs.
"They are a very good team and you can't really look at the common opponents to tell you very much," said Moffat County defensive coordinator Lance Scranton. "In the playoffs, all teams are solid so it is really who shows up that day."
The Bulldogs have been talking about going beyond the first round in the playoffs ever since their loss to Pueblo County last year.
"We went in a little timid last year and not knowing what to expect," head coach Kip Hafey said. "This year, there is a difference in our confidence."
Yet that confidence isn't as high as it could be after the Bulldogs loss of two consecutive games.
"In the first halves, we have come out with a bit of complacency the last two games," Scranton said. "There is a sense of urgency going into this game we may have
not had before."
Berthoud is a bit of a surprise to make it out of the Tri-Valley and into the playoffs. The Spartans, who also lost their last two regular-season games, had won one game the previous two seasons. The last time they hosted a playoff game was 1988.
Looking at tape, Hafey said why he thought the Bulldogs' opponents were in the post season.
"They've got a good group of linebackers," he said. "Their defense has been solid all year."
On the other side of the ball, the Berthoud offense uses the option.
"If we can control the option, I think we'll have a good day," he said. "They are similar to Delta on offense, but probably more talented."
The question remains if the Bulldogs can bring their form in the second half during the regular season for a whole game in the playoffs. Moffat County outscored all of its conference opponents in the second half this year by a total of 84-19. On the flip side they were outscored by three teams in the first half during conference play and had a small overall scoring advantage of 59-56. All but 17 points scored in the first halves came from a 42-point performance against Montezuma-Cortez.
"It's what we've been talking about all week," said senior linebacker Shea Carr, who will return to the field after missing the final regular-season game with an injury. "Four quarters of football will get us far. We just have to figure out that first half."
"We have the talent to play with anybody in the state," he said. "It just depends on if we decide to use it for the full game."
The game starts at 1 p.m. Saturday at Marr Stadium in Berthoud.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.