Berthoud -- All week the Moffat County High School football team talked about putting together a complete game after struggling in the first halves of its two consecutive losses.
In a 25-0 route of Berthoud, the Bulldogs settled with three complete quarters.
"Our defense came out and played with reckless abandonment," said Bulldog head coach Kip Hafey. "Their performance was incredible."
Berthoud had earned its 6-4 record and a spot in the Class 3A playoffs by winning several close defensive battles in Tri-Valley Conference play. Saturday, the visitors from the Western Slope Conference were the ones showing off their defensive abilities.
"Moffat County's defense was as good as we've seen," Spartan head coach Dan McGinn said. "We'd only been shut out once this season but it was nothing like this."
The Bulldog defense made a statement early as Shea Carr intercepted a Kenny Reinhard pass three plays into the game and gave the Bulldog offense the ball 29 yards from the end zone.
A 12-yard run from quarterback Derek Duran kept the drive alive on fourth down and the next play running back Aaron Sanchez found the end zone on an 11-yard run with 9:57 left in the first quarter. The extra point was missed and the Bulldogs took an early 6-0 lead.
"That first stop by our defense and then the score kicked off something big for us," said linebacker/fullback Scott Garoutte. "I think we knew we had it after the first two series."
The Spartans had a quick three-and-out series in its next possession and the Bulldogs took over on Berthoud's 45-yard line.
Nine plays later, the Bulldogs had the ball and a first and goal from the nine-yard line. After a four-yard keeper from quarterback Derek Duran and a two-yard rumble from Garoutte, the Bulldogs had third and goal from the one-yard line.
The Berthoud defense showed how it had carried the Spartans into the playoffs the next two plays by stuffing Garoutte and then Sanchez at the line resulting in a turnover on downs.
An energized Spartan offense took the ball at their four-yard line but for the third-straight series, the Bulldogs defense gave up minimal ground and forced another.
"We just kept gaining confidence on defense," said defensive end Georgie Raftopoulos. "Each series that first quarter we got stronger."
The Bulldogs added a 40-yard field goal from Brad Hurd on the ensuing drive to make it 9-0 with 59 seconds left in the first quarter.
The second quarter was a showcase of defenses. The Spartans intercepted two Duran passes while the Bulldogs forced four punts. The only scoring opportunity for either team in the quarter came in the final seconds when Brad Hurd missed a 43-yard field goal attempt.
"We didn't capitalize on some things on offense in the second quarter," Hafey said. "The score at halftime was closer than it should have been because of that."
The halftime numbers for the Spartans on offense were nearly non-existent.
They had two first downs with 18 yards on the ground and 13 yards on 2-10 passing.
The third quarter was nearly a mirror image of the first 12 minutes of the game. Sanchez intercepted a Reinhard pass on Berthoud's 27-yard line with 7:06 remaining. The Bulldogs couldn't move the ball but Hurd converted Sanchez's pick into three points with a 35-yard field goal to improve the Moffat County lead to 12-0.
Another three-and-out gave the Bulldogs the ball on the Spartans' 45 and three plays later, Sanchez broke free for a 31-yard touchdown run. The point after was good and with 13:42 to go in the game the Bulldogs were up 19-0.
After both teams exchanged punts Berthoud had the ball on its 17-yard line when Raftopoulos recovered a fumble. Two plays later, Sanchez scored his third touchdown of the day as he bounced off several would-be tacklers for a 14-yard score. The point after was blocked but the 25-0 score with 10:13 remaining didn't give the Spartan crowd much to cheer about.
The Bulldogs didn't give up a first down in the second half until 9:10 left in the fourth quarter and kept the shutout alive with pressure on Reinhard nearly every play in the final quarter as the Spartans tried to open up into a uncharacteristic passing attack.
"We couldn't handle them up front," McGinn said. "I can't speculate about if we were nervous about our first playoff game in a while. We were just outplayed."
In total, the Bulldog defense gave up three first downs, 42 yards on the ground with a 2.21-yard average each carry and 24 yards on 4-17 passing. They kept the Spartan punter, Mike Wakeford, busy as he kicked eight times.
"This was probably our second best performance on defense this year," Raftopoulos said. "Rifle's offense was better and we held them to one score and scored twice ourselves."
Leaders on the offensive side were Sanchez with 112 yards on 21 carries and Cody Palmer with 48 yards on two catches. Duran finished the day 7-14 for 80 yards. The Bulldogs amassed 301 yards on offense.
Hafey was impressed with his team's effort, which earned Moffat County its first playoff win since '93.
"This was huge," Hafey said. "We've been telling them all year we can play with anybody if we come out and perform the whole game and today I think they saw that."
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.