The early word this year about the Florence High School football team was that the defending state champions lost a lot of key players to graduation.
If that's the case then the nine teams that the Huskies beat this year by an average of almost 23 points certainly didn't want to face last year's team either.
"We maybe aren't as big or physical as last year," coach Mark Buderus said. "But as the season has gone on we've developed character as a team and we've gotten better every week."
Last week, the Huskies continued their weekly improvement with a 63-26 destruction of Skyline.
"Skyline was a big and physical team," Buderus said. "Things just went our way last week."
While the Huskies were earning their ninth win of the season with 42 points in the first half, the Moffat County Bulldogs were taking care of Berthoud in their first-round playoff game in similar fasion of their seven wins this year -- shutting down an opposing offense.
"If our defense is as focused as it was last week, we'll be in contention," said Bulldog coach Kip Hafey. "I think the team that controls the line will have the advantage this weekend."
Behind the Huskies' line are three backs that other defenses have had a hard time stopping this year. Fullback Ty Buderus has rumbled for 1,179 yards, quarterback Jeremy Young has gained 930 yards in the option offense and Matt Ortiz has earned 908 yards as the running back.
"We don't have any superstars," coach Buderus said. "For the most part, we've stayed healthy and our backs have found the holes this year."
Hafey and his staff haven't prepared its team for too many tricks to cover on defense.
"They are going to come right at us and throw in some play action," Hafey said. "It's a matter of getting our timing down on every play."
If one team were to have the game prep down for the Huskies it would appear to be Alamosa. The Mean Moose are the only Class 3A team to beat the Huskies the last two seasons.
"We were able to play well in those two particular games," coach Manny Wasinger said. "We have some experience on defense that has helped us."
Wasinger's "experience" on defense came from three senior linebackers who started for the Mean Moose since their sophomore years when they won the state championship.
"We were able to keep their offense off the field," Wasinger said of his team's 24-14 win this year and 35-14 victory last year. "We caught them at a good time this year."
Like the Western Slope Conference, the Southern Conference has three teams remaining in the playoffs. The Southern League also has produced the last three state champions.
This year's schedule for the Huskies lined them up them against the top three teams in the league in consecutive weeks. Alamosa was the last game of that series.
Hafey said that while he didn't watch either of the games the Huskies played against Alamosa, the game plan is similar.
"We need to get some long, sustained drives on offense," Hafey said. "And as always we need to hold on to the ball."
The WSC also has three schools remaining in the playoffs with Moffat County, Steamboat Springs and Palisade.
"Watching tape, Moffat County belongs in the quarterfinals as much as anybody else," Buderus said. "They are fast, athletic and they bring a lot of guys after you."
The shutout for the Bulldogs last week showed Buderus one thing about his opponent.
"In the playoffs a good defense is going to get you far," he said. "The offense is going to be up and down because one game you can't run or one game you might not be able to throw."
Buderus likes how his defense has been maturing.
"We've allowed some points this year," he said. "But we've been doing a better job lately."
As of Thursday, the Bulldogs hadn't had two starters at practice all week. Linebacker Shea Carr and running back Kellan Moore have been out with flu-like symptoms. Moore may even have pneumonia.
Hafey said the adjustments have been made.
"We look at this as a great opportunity to play the defending state champ at home during the playoffs," Hafey said. "To get to play in front of friends and family for the first time in nearly a decade (1995) is great."
The kick off is at 1 p.m. Saturday at Moffat County High School.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.