Both Bulldog teams beat up going into big game

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The mascot isn't the only thing that the Moffat County High School and Palisade Bulldog football teams have in common going into Friday's game.

Both teams have one Western Slope Conference loss coming at the hands of their rivals. Both teams are locks for the playoffs whether they win or lose. Neither team go into the game unscathed with two key players injured. Finally, both head coaches consider this game a must-win for a good seed in the playoffs and some confidence for the post season.

"This game is for the league championship for us," said Palisade coach Todd Casebier. "We win, we are the first seed and league champs, we lose we are fourth-place and the last team to make the playoffs."

This game is important in the standing for Moffat County as well, but it is a test to see how the team bounces back after a loss to its rival.

"We had some things put back in perspective after the loss to Steamboat (Springs) last week," Hafey said. "This is important to see how we respond and it is also for a home playoff game."

Moffat County will be without senior defensive end/offensive guard Nick Goodenow, who has a torn quadriceps, and senior linebacker Shea Carr. Palisade lost fullback Victor Green and back up tailback Jason Popick within three plays four weeks ago.

Green was the leading rusher in Class 3A before he went down for the season three weeks ago.

"We've gone from being four deep at running back to two," Casebier said. "But our guys have filled in and recovered."

Moffat County will wait and see how well Goodenow's replacements, junior Shayne Zimmerman and sophomore Kevin Loughran, as well as linebacker Jason Mosher, will do in their new roles as first teamers.

The adjustments that Hafey was more focused on was what the team talked about at Monday's practice.

"We had lost focus on every play," he said. "We were just going through the motions at time and against Steamboat and now with Palisade, it can't happen."

Hafey said he is still waiting for his team to play a full game well.

"We've come out well after halftime," Hafey said. "But we haven't played well in the first half."

As far as Casebier's Bulldogs, the coach knows it will take a special effort to get the win on the road.

"We are nowhere near the same team we were without our injuries," he said. "But we have to focus on what we have and not making mistakes."

Palisade still has quarterback/safety Dustin Harris and running back/safety Kyle Britton who were major factors in the Bulldog's run to the state title game last year.

Cody Nystrom has moved from receiver to fullback for Palisade and has helped the Bulldogs not miss a beat with 170 yards one the ground and three touchdowns last week against Delta.

According to Casebier the 0-line has kept Palisade in the hunt.

"Our guys up front have done a great job for us," he said. "They have to continue if we are going to have success."

For the Palisade coach, the Moffat County defense is one that can force mistakes.

"With nine guys around the ball, they make your mistakes big ones," he said. "We have to avoid letting their defense do that."

Just like any big game the team that makes the most mistakes will probably not get the "W."

"We have to eliminate the fumbles and mental mistakes," Hafey said. "If we play like we can it should be ours to win."

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com.

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