A meeting between the two teams on the opposite ends of the Western Slope Conference football standings takes place Friday in Cortez. But the top team isn't ready to notch it as a win.
"We had an off week last week against Delta," Moffat County High School coach Kip Hafey said. "We really don't want to have that again the rest of the season."
The Bulldogs leave today for the two-day trip down to Southwest Colorado to take on the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers. The Panthers are a young team with a freshman quarterback and no wins. To put the numbers game into perspective, Cortez' leading rusher, senior Eddie Halper, has 260 yards on the season, fewer than the average yards per game for the Bulldogs this season.
Panther coach Tom Adair put some thought into what his team's strengths have been.
"If we have a strength, it has been running the ball," he said. "We'd like to throw the ball but we haven't got that going."
From what he has seen on tape, Hafey and his coaching staff have prepared the Bulldog defense for every trick in the book.
"They run a lot of trick plays no matter where they are in the game or on the field," Hafey said. "They've scored a lot of their points this season with those trick plays."
On the other side of the ball, the Panthers model their defense from the Air Force Academy's 3-5-3. It allows them to send linebackers from different spots on the field to keep the offensive line guessing.
"The goal is to keep the outside contained," Adair said. "We can send people from a lot of different directions and our defense has played well for us this season with that set up."
Hafey said he likes the opportunities he sees for his wishbone offense against a 3-5-3.
"Normally teams will put nine or 10 in the box to stop a wishbone," he said. "With their defense they can, at the most, put eight so we've been working on that blocking and we think it looks good."
Despite a 0-7 record, Adair said he felt that his team has been competitive against every team they had played except the Steamboat Springs Sailors.
"We never got started against Steamboat," he said. "But other than that game, we've played pretty well for the personnel we have."
For the first time this season since the second game against Fort Morgan, the Bulldogs will be without several key starters. Senior defensive back Kelvin Grinolds will sit out with a leg injury, junior receiver Tyler Pike suffered a thumb injury in the JV game Tuesday and junior lineman Michael Babb will not make the trip for disciplinary reasons.
"We really need to come together as a team to overcome those absences," Hafey said. "That will be our challenge."
The seven-hour bus trip is something that Hafey said would help bring the team together for the final stretch of the season with Cortez and then Steamboat and Palisade at home.
"The staff and players are excited about this trip," he said. "We get to hang out and spend time together when we're not on the field and hopefully get back on track after a sluggish performance in Delta."
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.